Software How-Tos en 35 Cool Gmail Tips You Probably Don't Use (but Should!) - Updated! <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u17625/gmail_logo_405.jpg" width="250" height="103" style="font-size: 10px; text-align: -webkit-center; float: right;" /></h3> <h3>35 awesome Gmail tips and tricks</h3> <p>To those of you who might have had this article bookmarked, you'll notice it's a bit longer than before. Why? Well, we originally wrote this piece back in 2009, and quite a bit has changed since then, so we thought we'd add to it. After all, it's been five years, which might as well be an eternity in technology time. For example, the amount of free space Google gave Gmail users to play with in 2009 was less than half of what it is today. That's partially the result of Google merging storage across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google+ Photos. Whereas you used to have 7GB of storage for Gmail, you now have 15GB per account, and you can spread it out through those three services however you wish.</p> <p>Storage isn't the only thing that's different. There are some new tips and tricks to share, like <a title="streak" href="" target="_blank">Streak</a>, a Chrome extension that lets you see who viewed your email, at what time, and from where. We've added Streak to this article and cover it in a bit more detail on the following pages, as well as added other groovy tricks. We've also updated existing ones as needed. The bottom line is there's something here for everyone, whether you've read through this article before or this is the first time you're seeing it. Let's get started!</p> <h2>Learn to Use Keyboard Shortcuts</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="245" /></p> <p>You've heard the expression that you need to learn to crawl before you can walk, and when it comes to Gmail, you'll be ahead of the game if you learn how to use keyboard shortcuts before diving into more advanced options. To enable keyboard shortcuts, click on Settings and mark the 'Keyboard shortcuts on' radial button.</p> <p>Now that you have this feature turned on, here's a sampling of what you can do with it:</p> <ul> <li><strong>c</strong>: Compose a new message. Hold <strong>Shift +c</strong> to compose a message in a new window </li> <li><strong>Tab+Enter</strong>: Send a message</li> <li><strong>k</strong>: Move cursor to a more recent conversation</li> <li><strong>j</strong>: Move cursor to the next oldest conversation</li> <li><strong>n</strong>: Move cursor to the next message</li> <li><strong>o</strong> <strong>or Enter</strong>: Opens your conversation</li> <li><strong>x</strong>: Selects the current conversation</li> <li><strong>e</strong>: Archives selected conversation</li> <li><strong>!</strong>: Marks current conversation as spam</li> <li><strong>r</strong>: Reply</li> <li><strong>a</strong>: Reply to all</li> <li><strong>g then i</strong>: Go to the Inbox</li> <li><strong>g then a</strong>: Go to "All mail"</li> <li><strong>g then k</strong>: Opens Tasks and switches the focus to it </li> </ul> <p>There's a lot more shortcuts to learn, all of which you can reference <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="303" /></p> <p>In the original version of this article, we showed you how to fire up a game called Old Snakey using a Gmail shortcut after enabling it in Gmail Lab, a place where you can find "some crazy experimental stuff." Unfortunately, this fun little time waster slithered off into retirement a couple of years ago. The guy who wrote it -- <a href="" target="_blank">Dave Cohen</a>, a developer at Google -- said too many people thought they had to beat it before getting to see their mail. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted!</p> <h2>Import Your Contacts from Outlook (and other Mail Apps)</h2> <p>Kudos to you if you can remember the email address for everyone in your Address Book. That gets pretty difficult when you start dealing with dozens of contacts, let alone hundreds or even thousands, and who wants to sit around and retype all that info? The good news is, in most cases you won't have to when making the switch to Gmail.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="309" /></p> <p>Like many email clients and services, Gmail supports the Comma Separated Values (CSV) file format. This makes it easy to transfer your Outlook contacts over to Gmail. In Outlook, click on File&gt;Import and Export. Choose 'Export to a file' and press Next. Choose 'Comma Separated Values (Windows),' which should be the second entry down, as depicted above.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="309" /></p> <p>By default, Outlook seems to assume you want to export your mail and automatically scrolls down to your Inbox. But what we're after are all the email addresses, so scroll up and highlight Contacts, and then click on Next.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="309" /></p> <p>Choose a location for the file you're about to save and give it a name, like OutlookContacts. Click Next&gt;Finish and wait a few seconds while Outlook composes the file.</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/import_contacts.jpg" alt="Import Contacts" title="Import Contacts" width="405" height="221" /></p> <p>Now that you have your CSV file, sign in to Gmail and click on Contacts. You'll see some buttons listed above your contact. Click on More and select Import. Then click on Choose File and locate the CSV file you saved from Outlook. Once you've found your file, just click on Import and let Gmail do the rest!</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/import_contacts_0.jpg" alt="Yahoo Export" title="Yahoo Export" width="405" height="221" /></p> <p>Use this same method for any service or client which allows you to export your contacts to a CSV file. If you have a Yahoo email account, for example, click on Contacts and then Actions&gt;Export. Select the Yahoo CSV radio button and press Export Now. Then it's just a matter of importing the file into Gmail as outlined above.</p> <h2>Sign Out Remotely (and Discover Who's Been Using Your Account)</h2> <p>It doesn't matter whether we're sitting at the library or fixing Uncle Pete's PC. If we're sitting in front of a computer, we're probably going to check our Gmail to see if we have any urgent messages. That's fine, but what if you forget to sign out? The next person that uses the PC will able to jump into your account and read all of your conversations. Even worse, that person could send out emails on your behalf and create all kinds of chaos. And all because you forgot to sign out.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="306" /></p> <p>Don't sweat it, Google has your back. Scroll down below your inbox and take note of the Details URL. Right next to it, Google tells you when the last account activity took place, and from which IP it originated from.</p> <p>When you click on the Details link, a new window pops up with more detailed information about any recent activity that occurred on your account, including the IP address, date and time, and even the access type (browser, mobile, POP3, SMTP, and so forth).</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="338" /></p> <p>In addition to your armchair investigation, this is also where you're able to sign out of your account remotely. Just click on the 'Sign out all other sessions' buttons and it will be like you never forgot to log off at all!</p> <hr /> <h2>Add Your AIM Buddies to Gmail</h2> <p>This one's a little tricky because Gmail no longer plays all that nice with AIM since Google decided to focus on its own Hangouts. If you're using Hangouts in Gmail, the first thing you need to do in Gmail is revert back to the old chat. You'll find the option to do that by clicking on your mug in the chat section on the left-hand side.</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/revert.jpg" alt="Revert to old chat" title="Revert to old chat" width="405" height="277" /></p> <p>After you revert to the old chat, use AOL's import tool found here. It will ask you to log into AIM and then share your Gmail login information. After you do that, AIM will import your contacts. Leave the browser open as it's working -- it could take a minute or so to complete.</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/aim.jpg" alt="AIM on web" title="AIM on web" width="405" height="272" /></p> <p>You can also chat with your Google buddies through AIM. To do that, log into AIM, click on Settings, and select Third Party Accounts. Next, select the Add Google Talk Contacts option and click Accept in the pop-up window.</p> <h2>Mute or Ignore Conversations the Polite Way</h2> <p>Ever get caught up in a lame group conversation that you want no part of? You basically have two options when this happens. First, you can send off an insulting email letting the other participants know you have no interest in their topic of conversations and to remove you from the current discussion. The problem in doing that is you're bound to piss someone off and it will all be for naught. Why? Because some bonehead will inevitably reply to an older email from which your name hasn't yet been removed, putting you right back in the thick of things.</p> <p>The other solution is to simply put up with it and delete the emails as they come in. If you're thinking there's got to be a better way, you're absolutely correct. One of the coolest features in Gmail is the ability to mute or flat-out ignore a conversation. Here's how you do it.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="171" /></p> <p>First you need to turn on keyboard shortcuts as we outlined earlier (Settings, Keyboard shortcuts on, Save). Once this is enabled, simply press the 'm' key to mute a conversation. By doing so, new messages added the conversation skip your inbox and stay archived. That is, unless you're the direct recipient, in which case it will still show up in your inbox so you don't have to stress over missing any urgent emails.</p> <p>The downside to this is your muted messages can quickly become lost, making them difficult to track down if you ever need to reference one of them. However, there's an easy way to sort through them all. In the search field, type <strong>is:muted</strong>.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="171" /></p> <p>What you won't find is an unmute button, but that's okay, you don't need one. To unmute a conversation, open it up and click on Move to Inbox.</p> <h2>Configure Outlook to Access Gmail</h2> <p>We're not going to debate which is the better email protocol, IMAP or POP3. We don't need to, because Gmail supports them both, as does Outlook. So rather than spark a flame war over which one is better (*cough* IMAP *cough*), we'll show you how to configure each one.</p> <p><strong>Configure Gmail in Outlook with POP3</strong></p> <p>Before you do anything, sign in to your Gmail account and click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP. There are a few different options for enabling POP3, and we recommend checking the second one, 'Enable POP for mail that arrives from now on.' If you want Outlook to also download mail that you've already received and read, click the other radio button. Press Save Changes.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="303" /></p> <p>In the same section, decide and choose whether you want Gmail to keep a copy of messaged accessed via POP3 on Google's servers, archive them, or delete them.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="305" /></p> <p>Now fire up Outlook and navigate to Tools&gt;Account Settings and be sure the Email tab is selected. Click on New, select the first radio button (Microsoft Exchange, POP3, IMAP, or HTTP), and press Next. Fill in the account setup form, including your Gmail email address and password. Once you're finished, click on Next and see if Outlook is able to automatically configure your account. If not, you'll need to go back and mark the 'Manually configure server settings or additional server types' checkbox.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="305" /></p> <p>Click Next and select the Internet E-mail radio button. In the next window, fill out the fields as follows:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Your Name</strong>: Your name, or a really witty alias</li> <li><strong>Email Address</strong>: Your Gmail email address</li> <li><strong>Account Type</strong>: POP3</li> <li><strong>Incoming Mail Server</strong>:</li> <li><strong>Outgoing mail server (SMTP)</strong>:</li> <li><strong>User name</strong>: Your Gmail username</li> <li><strong>Password</strong>: Your Gmail password</li> <li><strong>Require logon using Secure Password Authentication (SPA)</strong>: Checked</li> </ul> <div style="text-align: center;"><img src="" width="402" height="442" /></div> <p>Now click on the More Settings button and select the Advanced tab. Fill out the following:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Incoming Server (POP3)</strong>: 995</li> <li><strong>This server requires an encrypted connection (SSL)</strong>: Checked </li> <li><strong>Outgoing server (SMTP)</strong>: 587</li> <li><strong>Use the folling type of encrypted connection</strong>: TLS</li> </ul> <p><strong>Configure Gmail in Outlook with IMAP</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="191" /></p> <p>Sign into Gmail, click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP, and mark the Enable IMAP radio button. Press Save Changes.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="305" /></p> <p>Load up Outlook and create a new account using the same steps above, only this time don't even attempt to let Google auto detect the settings. Mark the 'Manually configure server settings or additional server types' check box, click Next, and fill out the fields as follows:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Your Name</strong>" Your Name</li> <li><strong>Email Address</strong>: Your Gmail email address</li> <li><strong>Account Type</strong>: IMAP</li> <li><strong>Incoming mail server</strong>:</li> <li><strong>Outgoing mail server (SMTP)</strong>:</li> <li><strong>User name</strong>: Your Gmail user name</li> <li><strong>Password</strong>: Your Gmail password</li> <li><strong>Require logon using Secure Password Authentication (SPA)</strong>: Unchecked</li> </ul> <p>Now click on the More Settings button and select the Advanced tab. Fill out the following:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Incoming Server (POP3)</strong>: 993</li> <li><strong>Use the following type of encrypted connection</strong>: SSL </li> <li><strong>Outgoing server (SMTP)</strong>: 25</li> <li><strong>Use the folling type of encrypted connection</strong>: TLS</li> </ul> <hr /> <h2>Back up and Use Gmail Offline</h2> <p>The reason it always seems like your Internet connection goes out at the worst possible time is because when you stop and think about it, there's really no good time to be without Internet access. Whether we're trying to play an online multiplayer game or collaborate on a cloud project, losing an internet connection sucks. That doesn't mean you can't still be productive, however, because Google has made it possible to use your Gmail account offline (provided you use Chrome). Here's what you need to do.</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/gmail_offline_app.jpg" alt="Gmail Offline App" title="Gmail Offline App" width="405" height="271" /></p> <p>Log into your Gmail account, click on the Gear icon in the top-right corner and select Settings, and then click on the Offline link. If you see a blank page, select the Install Gmaill Offline option and proceed to do so.</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/gmail_offline.jpg" alt="Gmail Offline" title="Gmail Offline" width="405" height="204" /></p> <p>After you install the app, launch it and follow the prompts. The first one will ask whether or not you want to allow offline mail. By choosing the Allow offline mail option, Gmail will save copies of recent mail for your account to your PC. You can then choose to download from the past week, 2 weeks, or month by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right corner.</p> <p>At this point, the synchronization process will kick in. Depending on how much email you've acquired through the years, this could take a long while, even on a fast connection. Once it's finished, however, you'll be able to access all your mail offline.</p> <p><strong>Gmail Backup</strong></p> <p>What if you're not using Google's Chrome browser? You can still backup your Gmail and view them offline in a third-party email client. Here's how:</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="400" /></p> <p>Download and install Gmail Backup from <a href="">here</a>. Run the program, input your username and password, and choose a directory to save your mail. When you're finished, click the Backup button and Gmail Backup will do the rest. Should you ever need to view these messages offline, you can do so in Outlook and other clients that support the .eml file format. But what's even cooler is that you can restore your local emails back into Gmail just by clicking on the Restore button.</p> <h2>Integrate Gmail into Google Apps</h2> <p>Google does a lot more than just email, and that can mean wielding different accounts, tabs, or browser windows. If you're heavy into Google Apps, that can quickly become a drag, so here are a few ways you can integrate Gmail with other Google services.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Google Calendar </strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="377" /></p> <p>To integrate Google Calendar with your Gmail account, log into Gmail, click on Settings, and select the Labs tab. Scroll down and enable the Google Calendar gadget, and then click Save.</p> <p><strong>Google Voice Player</strong></p> <p>There's no need to navigate back and forth from Gmail to Google Voice in order to play back your voicemails. Enable 'Google Voice player in mail' under the Labs stab and you'll be able to play back your voice messages from your email notification.</p> <hr /> <h2>Set up Automated Canned Responses for Quick Fire Emails</h2> <p>We admit it, we're hypocrites, but hear us out. Sure, we despise as much as the next person receiving an automated response to a customer support inquiry, so why in the world would we advocate setting up Google's so-called Canned Responses? Put simply, we can be much more efficient and less burnt out by composing pre-set replies to common questions we receive all the time.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="284" /></p> <p>To take advantage of this feature, head back into the Labs tab (under Settings), enable Canned Responses, and mash the Save button. Now let's say you placed a For Sale ad on Craigslist or your local Classifieds and the item sold, but you continue to receive inquiries. It can get pretty old typing out the same response over and over, and it's bad etiquette to just ignore the email. After all, you may be shunning a future buyer for other items you may list for sale.</p> <p>This is where Canned Responses come in. Type in your response. In our example, we wrote, "The 2008 Pontiac GTO I listed on Craigslist is sold. Thank you for your interest." It's short, polite, and to the point, and it's also generic enough to be used no matter what the question is regarding the car that was recently sold. To save this message as a Canned Response, click on the Canned Respond link in the upper right corner, select Save, and give it a name.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="284" /></p> <p>The next time an email comes in asking about the car, we can simply click on the Canned Response link and insert our pre-composed reply.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="138" /></p> <p>To take it a step further, we can automate the process of sending Canned Responses by using Filters. To do this, click on the Create a Filter link next to the search box. In this example, we want to filter emails that contain the words 'Craigslist,' 'Pontiac,' or 'GTO.' We'll write these down in the 'Has the words' field with each word separated by the search operator '<strong>OR</strong>' (in all caps). When you're finished, click Next.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="287" /></p> <p>In the next step, mark the 'Send canned response' checkbox and select the appropriate one from the pull-down menu. You can also choose to mark the email as read, delete, archive it, and a few other options. When you have it configured the way you want, mash the Create Filter button and let Gmail handle the rest!</p> <h2>Send and Receive Blocked Files</h2> <p>Thank virus writers and malicious malware miscreants for the restrictions most ISPs and email services place on potentially dangerous file types. That includes Google, which blocks you from sending or receiving executables, as well as some other file formats, even if they're sent in a one of these compressed file types: .zip, .tar, .tgz, .taz. .z, and .gz.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="396" height="481" /></p> <p>The easiest workaround is to amend the file extension to fool Gmail into allowing the file, and then let the recipient know they'll need to rename the file. For example, let's say you coded a simple app and wanted to share it with your mentor. Open up the directory where the file is located and press the Alt key to bring up the menu bar. Click on Tools&gt;Folder Options, select the View tab, and uncheck 'Hide extensions for known file types.' Hit OK.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="267" /></p> <p>Now you can edit your file's extension. Right- click the blocked file and select Rename. Add <strong>.REMOVE</strong> to the end of the file, so for example <strong>CustomApp.exe</strong> would become <strong>CustomApp.exe.REMOVE</strong>. A pop-up window will appear letting you know that if you change the extension, the file might become unusable. Click Yes, as once the recipient changes it back. it will be fully usable again. Now you're free to send your file!</p> <p><strong>Protip</strong>: If you have a lot of blocked file attachments to send, compress them into a single .zip file and then change the .zip extension in the same manner above.</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/hightail.jpg" alt="HighTail" title="HighTail" width="405" height="287" /></p> <p>If you're not comfortable thwarting Gmail's virus scanner, you still have other options. One of our favorites is <a href="" target="_blank">Hightail</a> (formerly YouSendIt). Once you register, this free service will allow you to send any file type up to 250MB in size (by contrast, Gmail limits messages to 25MB). If you need more than that, there are also several subscription plans available starting at $16/month.</p> <p>To use the service, just log in, attach your file, and fire away!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Host Your Domain's Email at Gmail</h2> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/google_apps_business.jpg" alt="Google Apps for Business" title="Google Apps for Business" width="405" height="310" /></p> <p>If you own a website, chances are you also want to use your personalized email address (, for example). At the same time, Gmail's feature set typically trounces all over most other email services, including the one that comes prepackaged with your domain. One solution is to simply forward your email to a Gmail account, but that isn't exactly elegant. Nor is it necessary, because Google allows you to host your domain email at Gmail, giving you the best of both worlds.</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/gmail_email_domain.jpg" alt="Gmail Email Domain" title="Gmail Email Domain" width="405" height="310" /></p> <p>To get started, you need to register with Google Apps for business by following <a href="" target="_blank">this link</a>. Fill in the required info and hit Next. Then, choose the "Use a domain name I have already purchased" radio button and type in your domain name in the specified field.</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/gmail_email_username.jpg" alt="Gmail Email Username" title="Gmail Email Username" width="405" height="310" /></p> <p>Next you'll need to create a Google apps account by filling in the fields for your username and password, then click "Accept and signup." This will take you to the Google Admin Console, and thus begins your 30-day free trial to Google Apps for business.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/domain_verify.jpg" alt="Domain Verify" title="Domain Verify" width="405" height="311" /></p> <p>You still need to verify that you own the website you just registered. Start the process by clicking on the Gear icon and selecting "Setup," and then select the "Verify domain ownership" option on the left-hand side. You can do this in one of two ways - either by uploading an HTML file to your website, or changing the domain's CNAME records with your domain host. It doesn't matter which one you choose, though if you choose to go the CNAME route, Google provides specific instructions for several popular hosts <a href=";answer=47283">here </a>(scroll down and expand 'Specific instructions for popular domain hosts).</p> <p>The easiest way is to upload an HTML file. Google holds your hands through the process. When prompted, download the HTML file Google provides and upload it where specified.</p> <p><iframe src="//" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Once you've verified your site, you'll need to configure your domain's MX (Mail Exchange) records. How you get there will depend on which host you're using, and so will the records you need to input. Find your host <a href="">here </a>and follow the instructions exactly as Google lays them out, or if you don't see your host listed, follow these general MX record instructions:</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="253" height="227" /></p> <ol> <li>Sign in to your hosting account and navigate to the MX record maintenance page</li> <li>Delete all existing MX entries</li> <li>Enter the MX records depicted above </li> </ol> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="308" /></p> <p>It might take a little while for all the changes to take effect, but when they do, you'll be able to log into your email account by navigating to <strong></strong>, where YOURWEBSITE.COM is the name of your domain.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="308" /></p> <p>After you log in, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the Dashboard and the different settings available. For example, you can create up to 50 email accounts, set up groups, enable contact sharing, and more.</p> <h2>Track Which Sites are Sharing Your Email Address</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="228" /></p> <p>Interested in learning which sites are sharing your email address? There's an easy way reveal which sites and services aren't living up their privacy promises. All you have to do is append your email address with +xxx, replacing xxx with whatever you want. For example, if your Gmail address is, you could use the email address when registering at Best Buy. Emails sent to JohnDoe will still show up in your regular inbox, and if you start receiving all kinds of unsolicited junk mail at that addy, you'll know the culprit.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="150" /></p> <p>Discovering who's sharing your email isn't the only thing this trick is good for. Pre-labeled emails also come in handy for sorting your messages and using a unified account in place of several email addys. If you wanted to keep your work messages separate from your day-to- day email, just append the word 'work' to your email addy. To use our above example, you would use when communicating with co-workers. Take it a step further by creating labels and setting up filters to automatically sort your work, personal, and any other types of email addresses you set up.</p> <h2>Sorting with Labels and Filters</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="170" /></p> <p>Few email services come close to offering the same flexibility and management options as Gmail, and it's mostly due to Google's implementation of labels and filters. In short, labels act like folders, while filters act like, well, filters.</p> <p>If you're using Gmail, you've probably already created a few labels. Here are some good ways to utilize them:</p> <ol> <li>Create an 'Ideas' label and setup a filter to auto-archive any emails sent to to the corresponding label. This will prevent you from cluttering up your inbox every time you email yourself a fantastic idea you want to be sure not to forget.</li> <li>Create a label called 'Needs Response' and attached it to any emails that you've sent out and, once you hear back from, will require another response. This way you can quickly and easily view which emails are still in need of a followup and not have to worry you'll forget about them. </li> <li>Gmail organizes labels in alphabetical order, but this may not always be the way you want them. Take control by adding a number or letter prefix in front of your labels. For example, if you want your 'Work' label to appear at the top, rename it to '1 Work' or 'a Work.' </li> <li>Color code your labels to better manage your email. Just click on the box next to the label and select a color. To make better use of this one, combine certain labels with filters so that incoming emails from work appear in one color, while emails from immediate family members appear in another. </li> <li>Still sporting a small monitor? Use the Labs feature 'Remove Labels from Subjects' so that emails in your inbox will have their labels hidden, leaving more room for the subject line.</li> </ol> <hr /> <h2>Our Top 5 Must-Have Labs Add- Ons</h2> <p>Gmail owes much of its flexibility to Gmail Labs. These add-ons are essentially beta services that, for one reason or another, haven't been implemented yet as a permanent feature. But don't let the experimental status fool you - there are a lot of good Labs features that both run stable and improve the overall Gmail experience. Here's a list of our favorite five, in addition to the ones we've already covered previously in this writeup (like Canned Responses).</p> <p><strong>Right-Side Chat<br /></strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/gmail_chat.jpg" alt="Right-Side Chat" title="Right-Side Chat" width="405" height="271" /></p> <p>Don't like having your Hangouts on the left side of Gmail? Enable Right-Side Chat and it will appear on the right side instead. This isn't groundbreaking, by any means, though it does open up more space on the left side for custom labels without having to minimize your chat contacts.</p> <p><strong>Unread Messages Icon<br /></strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/gmail_unread.jpg" alt="Unread Messages" title="Unread Messages" width="405" height="271" /></p> <p>It's been a couple of hours since you checked Gmail and the messages are starting to pile up. You can only put it off before there are so many messages that it becomes overwhelming. How long? That varies by user, but with this handy Lab enabled, you'll know exactly how many unread messages are waiting for you.</p> <p><strong>Mark as Read Button</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="370" /></p> <p>Buttons or pull-down menus? If you frequently perform a particular action, the button wins out every time. And if you find yourself marking emails as read on a consistent basis, this just might become your favorite add-on.</p> <p><strong>Custom Keyboard Shortcuts<br /></strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/gmail_shortcuts.jpg" alt="Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts" title="Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts" width="405" height="271" /></p> <p>We showed you how to enable keyboard shortcuts earlier in this article, but if you don't like the way Google has them configured, enable this Lab to make changes. Maybe you think "W" for "write email" is easier to remember than "C" for "Compose." Once you enable this Lab, you'll find a Keyboard Shortcuts option in Settings. Head over there and make any changes you want.</p> <p><strong>Undo Send</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="163" /></p> <p>Probably the best Labs feature ever, Undo Send gives you a moment to reflect on that angry email you just sent your boss, and should a cooler head prevail, unsend the message and maybe even save your job!</p> <p>Have a favorite Labs feature that didn't make the list? Be sure to post it in the comments section below!</p> <hr /> <h2>5 Essential Gmail Downloads</h2> <p><strong>Gmail Notifier</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="268" /></p> <p>It's tough to imagine using Gmail without Gmail Notifier. This little utility sits unobtrusively in the systray and lets you know when there's a new message in your inbox. It also serves as a gateway to your inbox - just right-click and select View Inbox.</p> <p><strong>Free</strong>, <a href=""> </a></p> <p><strong>Fuser</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="301" /></p> <p>The hardest part about being a social butterfly in cyberspace is managing all those different accounts. It's easy to waste an entire morning just catching up on current events through Gmail, MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, and Twitter. That's where Fuser comes in, which is a catch-all front-end that combines all those accounts (including multiple accounts through the same service) into a single, manageable inbox.</p> <p><strong>Free</strong>, <a href=""></a></p> <p><strong>Gmail S/MIME</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="370" /></p> <p>Send and receive signed and encrypted messages in Gmail with this Firefox add-on. Once installed, you'll notice a padlock icon when composing an email. Give it a click to lock and encrypt your email, and rest easy knowing your top secret message will stay that way.</p> <p><strong>Free</strong>, <a href=""></a></p> <p><strong>Email This!</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="214" /></p> <p>We like any tool or service that makes our lives easier and streamlines common tasks, and one such utility that fits the bill is the Email This! Firefox add-on. Once installed, Email This! will appear in your right-click context menu making easy work out of emailing the title, link, and any highlighted text through your Gmail account.</p> <p><strong>Free</strong>, <a href=""></a></p> <p><strong>Gmail Manager</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="406" /></p> <p>This Firefox add-on is like a supercharged version of Gmail Notifier. Probably the best feature is the ability to add multiple accounts, but you can also configure how often Gmail Manager checks for new messages, display new mail snippets from the inbox, play a sound when new mail arrives, hide your email alias, and more.</p> <p><strong>Free</strong>, <a href=""></a></p> <hr /> <h2>Let's Streak!</h2> <p>Whoa, put your pants back on! We're not talking about that kind of streaking. No, the "Streak" we're referring to is a handy extension for Chrome that supercharges your Gmail experience. You can use Streak to schedule emails to send out later, create and add snippets of redundant text to emails, track bugs, and more. Have a look at one example:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>One of our favorite features of Streak is being able to track emails. If you enable this feature, you can tell when someone has read an email you sent, when they read it, and even where they were when they read it.</p> <h3>Get Creative with Capitizlization and Dots</h3> <p>Let's say your Gmail address is If you don't like how that looks, feel free to tell people your email address is You're probably already aware that capatilization doesn't matter, but did you know that the dots don't affect things as well? They don't, so even will deliver email to</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/dots.jpg" alt="Dots" title="Dots" width="405" height="304" /></p> <p>The dots are simply irrelevant.</p> <h2>Take Gmail to Tasks</h2> <p>It's hard to stay organized with to-do lists. Will you remember everything you're supposed to pick up at the store? What about little Johnny's concert -- will you remember that as well? You could tie a string to your finger, but a to-do list is even better.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/gmail_tasks.jpg" alt="Tasks" title="Tasks" width="405" height="271" /></p> <p>You can make them in Gmail using the Tasks function. You'll find Tasks by clicking on Gmail, or you can press the "G" key followed by the "K" key to open up a Tasks windows. You can also add to Tasks from within emails by pressing Shift+T.</p> <h2>Temporarily Hide Your Emails</h2> <p>Boomerangs are fun, and if you've never played with one, you're missing out. Equally awesome is Boomerang -- not the thing you throw, but an extension for Chrome and Firefox. With Boomerang, you can schedule an email to send out at a later time. Just write it up and tell Boomerang when it should send out. In the meantime, if you change your mind -- maybe it's a breakup letter -- you can always go back and nuke the email.</p> <p><iframe src="//" width="620" height="465" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>The second thing Boomerang does is offer followup reminders by archiving your emails and bringing them back later. This gives you a cleaner inbox in the short term, but ensures you won't forget about an important email that may not be relevant until next week.</p> <h2>Use Advanced Search Parameters</h2> <p>Over the years, we tend to accumulate a lot of email. It can quickly become overwhelming trying to search for a particular email that may have been sent years ago and is now buried amid a sea of communications. What's a power user to do?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/gmail_search.jpg" alt="Gmail Search" title="Gmail Search" width="405" height="271" /></p> <p>To start with, identify some distinct characaters of the email you're looking for. Once you've done that, use Google's advanced search terms to track it down based on specific criteria. For example, are you looking for an email that's larger than 1MB, older than two years, and isn't labled? Simple! Just search for: <strong>size:1000000 older_2y has:nouserlabels</strong></p> <h2>Check Multiple Gmail Accounts Using a Single Login</h2> <p>If you only have a single Gmail account, move along, there's nothing to see here. But if you have multiple Gmail accounts, this tip absolutely applies to you. By taking advantage Gmail Delegation, you can merge multiple accounts to a primary account and check all email at once. This feature is really intended for business types so that supervisors can share their inboxes with personal assistants, but it's also great for power users who own multiple Gmail accounts. Check it out.</p> <p><iframe src="//" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>If you're not able to view the embedded videw above for any reason, just follow these steps:</p> <ul> <li>Click the gear icon, select Settings, and head over to Accounts</li> <li>Navigate to the section that reads "Grant access to your account" and select Add another account</li> <li>Type the email address of the account you want to merge</li> <li>Click Send email to grant access</li> <li>Check for a confirmation email in the account you're trying to merge and click the link</li> </ul> <p>Be advised that it could take some time for Google to sync the accounts, so be patient.</p> <h3>Organize Your Labels</h3> <p>Using labels is a great way to organize your emails, but as the number of labels grow, they too may need organizing! Lucikly, Google makes this easy to do in Gmail.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/labels.jpg" alt="Gmail Labels" title="Gmail Labels" width="405" height="330" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Navigate to the Settings section (found withing the gear icon) and select Labels. This will show you all the default labels plus the ones you've created over the years. If you wish to keep certain labels to archive your mail but don't want them cluttering up your inbox, click on Hide and they'll disappear from view.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">You can also select which ones are viewable in IMAP. One in particular you may want to hid from view is All Mail, especially if you're setting up a new IMAP account in Thunderbird or Outlook for an email address that's been collecting email for several years.</p> email essentials features Gmail tips Google hacks how-tos Software Software How-Tos web Features Fri, 04 Apr 2014 21:38:07 +0000 Paul Lilly 9905 at How to Install Windows 8 from a USB Key <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Forget the CD and install Windows 8 with your flash drive&nbsp;</span></h3> <p>A guide? To install Windows? Slapping a new operating system on your desktop or laptop PC should be old hat by now, right? This <em>is</em><a title="Windows 8 review" href="" target="_blank"> Windows 8</a>, after all: Odds are pretty good that you, an astute and well-travelled Maximum PC reader, have been around the ol’ Windows installation block a few times before.</p> <p>And unlike <a title="Windows 8 beta" href="" target="_blank">previous versions of the operating system</a>, Windows 8 doesn’t even need that much babysitting. Once you’ve set the installer application running, it’s off to the races: You can sit back, enjoy a nice beverage or a fun sitcom, and let Microsoft’s fantastically efficient OS installation routine do all the work. By the time your Windows 8 OS needs your input, you’re practically finished – but a few short steps, if not minutes, away from the tiled joy that is Windows 8 proper.</p> <p>So, er, what does that leave us to talk about?</p> <p>Plenty. Ditch your discs; we’re going to show you <strong>how to install Windows 8</strong> from a USB key.&nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Installing Windows 8 from a USB key</span></h3> <p>If you shun DVDs, love speedier installations, have a digital download of Windows 8, or just plain <a title="no optical drive" href="" target="_blank">don’t have an optical drive</a> – or are too lazy to hook one up – then it’s going to be a USB-based installation for you. And that’s just fine; it’s a great, quick way to get an operating system onto your hard drive and extremely useful if you, say, keep your Windows installation disc tucked away as an .iso on your network drive instead of thrown in one of your desk drawers.</p> <p>The easiest way to accomplish this process is to already have your hands on a copy of Windows 8’s downloadable .iso file – acquirable by <a title="Windows 8 download" href="" target="_blank">purchasing it from Microsoft itself</a>. If you have a flash drive of the appropriate size (at least four gigabytes or greater, depending on whatever file Microsoft lets you grab), you’re golden. Insert your flash drive into a USB slot on your system, and then go grab Microsoft’s <a href="">Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool</a> – don’t let the name dissuade you.</p> <p>Install the app and run it. It’ll ask you to select an .iso file to be “burnt” onto your USB key. Go ahead and select your Windows 8 .iso file – the fact that it’s not the right operating system as the tool’s name has absolutely no bearing on what you’re doing.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/w8install_howto_1.png" width="583" height="316" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Yes, we know, it says "Windows 7" download tool, but you can just ignore that part.</strong></p> <p>On the next screen, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to create a “Windows 7 backup” – again, ignore the name – on a USB device or DVD. Pick the obvious answer, select your USB key from the drop-down menu.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/w8install_howto_2.png" width="580" height="314" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Select your USB device</strong></p> <p>When you're ready to let 'er rip, click on "<strong>Begin copying</strong>!" &nbsp;If the tool needs to format your USB key first, it'll let you know.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/w8install_howto_3.png" width="580" height="314" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/w8install_howto_4.png" width="582" height="315" /></p> <p>Couldn’t be easier, right?</p> <hr /> <p>Sometimes, however, the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool mucks up – it might tell you that the .iso file you’re looking to “burn” isn’t actually a recognizable .iso file. You know it is; the Windows tool disagrees. Problem.</p> <p>While some have been able to get around this issue by changing the actual filesystem of the .iso file itself – to UDF, for example – you’re going to need a tool like PowerISO to do so. And that’s not freeware. The last thing you should have to do is pay for the right to get a working, bootable Windows 8 installation on your flash drive.</p> <p>Our solution? Do what the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool is doing… by yourself.</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Manually Installing Windows 8 from a USB key</span></h3> <p>Start by using a freeware app like <a href="">Virtual CloneDrive</a> to mount your downloaded Windows 8 installation .iso to a virtual drive within your current Windows OS. You can also use the technique we’re about to describe to create a USB-based Windows 8 installation flash drive from a Windows 8 DVD – just pop it in your actual optical drive.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/w8install_howto_5.png" width="620" height="387" style="text-align: center;" /></p> <p>Insert your USB key. Fire up a <strong>Command Prompt</strong> as an Administrator. Within the <strong>Command Prompt</strong>, load Windows’ built-in Disk Partition utility by typing in “<strong>diskpart</strong>” and hitting <strong>Enter</strong>.</p> <p>Within the Disk Partition utility, you’ll want to start out by typing in “<strong>list disk</strong>” and hitting <strong>Enter</strong>. From there, note the drive number that corresponds to your flash drive – you’ll be able to tell, as the capacity of the listed drive should match the capacity of your USB key. It’s that easy.</p> <p>Next, type in “<strong>select disk #</strong>,” where the pound sign is the drive number of your USB key that you just took note of. Hit <strong>Enter</strong>; DiskPart will select the aforementioned drive. Now, type in “<strong>clean</strong>” and hit <strong>Enter</strong> to remove any existing partitions that might already be on your flash drive. Once the cleaning process is done, type in “<strong>create partition primary</strong>” and hit <strong>Enter</strong> to do just that. Type in “<strong>select partition 1</strong>” and hit <strong>Enter</strong> to select your new partition, type in “<strong>active</strong>” and hit <strong>Enter</strong>, and then then type in “<strong>format FS=NTFS quick</strong>” to quickly reformat your partition with the NTFS filesystem. Type “<strong>assign</strong>” and hit <strong>Enter</strong>, and you’ll have finished making your USB key bootable!</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/w8install_howto_6.png" width="620" height="323" /></p> <p>Now, it’s time to copy your Windows 8 installation files from their drive – virtual or real – to your USB key. Close diskpart by typing in “<strong>exit</strong>” and hitting <strong>Enter</strong>. From the <strong>Command Prompt</strong>, type this in (minus the quotes and the final period): “<strong>xcopy x:\*.* y:\ /e /f /h</strong>.” In our example, however, the “x:\” designation should actually represent the drive letter of your mounted Windows 8 installation .iso file or physical DVD. The “y:\” should be the actual drive letter of your USB key. Once you’ve made those subtle alterations, hit <strong>Enter</strong> and let ‘er rip — all of the Windows 8 files will start transferring over to your USB key.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/w8install_howto_7.png" width="620" height="325" /></p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Installing Windows 8 — Upgrade or Clean?</span></h3> <p>Once you’re ready to install Windows 8 from your USB key, you’ll want to restart your computer and either boot into your motherboard’s BIOS or hit the associated hotkey that allows you to access the “Boot Menu” during POST. Regardless of which way you go about it, you’ll want to make sure that your system is set to first boot off of your USB key instead of your existing hard drive. To note: If you’re ever thinking of installing Windows 8 from its DVD, you’ll also go about this process to select your optical drive as the primary boot device.</p> <p>Be on the lookout if your motherboard requires you to actually hit a key – any key on your keyboard – to confirm that you want to boot to your USB drive. From there, the actual Windows 8 installation process should look a lot like that which you’re already used to, if you’ve previously had to install Windows 7 or Windows Vista.</p> <p>And now’s as good a time as any to talk about upgrading versus starting from scratch, since you’re likely to be presented with both of these options at the very beginning of the Windows 8 installation process.</p> <p>Simply put, upgrading will allow you to keep a large chunk of your existing Windows 7 settings, files, and applications — or for Windows XP or Windows Vista users, just your files. If you’re coming from Windows 7, you can even select whether you want the entire process previously described, or if you’d rather Windows 8 just keep your personal files intact during the upgrade (essentially, anything in your Windows 7 user folder).</p> <p>The Windows 8 installation process will alert you to any compatibility issues between existing programs or drivers you might have installed within your current operating system and Windows 8 – like additional USB 3.0 drivers, for example, since Microsoft’s already baked these into Windows 8 proper. Once the Windows 8 installation finishes, you’ll be treated to a Start Screen that should be full of the programs you were used to seeing on (for example) good ol’ Windows 7. The drivers? Migrated. Most of your settings? Still set.</p> <p>Still, <em>resist the urge to do it</em>.</p> <p>By that, we mean – a clean install of an operating system is always the best way to go for a very specific reason. Right now, your computer is likely full of crap. Applications you once installed and left behind, an old driver version or two that you’ve forgotten about, and just general OS bloat that can hit a variety of points around your operating system (from your start menu to your registry). Consider the installation of a new operating system to be kind of like the equivalent of spring cleaning in the real world. It gives you, and your poor PC, a chance to start anew.</p> <p>Just think of the space you’ll have saved on your hard drive! The speeds you’ll achieve with a clutter-free operating system! You might lose a little sanity with your driver installations and application reinstallations — which, really, isn’t all that bad of a process if you make use of a little tool called <a href="">Ninite</a> — but you’ll be able to experience Microsoft’s brand-new OS completely unblemished. At least, unblemished until you start filling it up with all kinds of apps.</p> <p>Goodbye, pretty Start Screen. We hardly knew thee.</p> <p><a href=""><em>David Murphy</em></a><em> has played around with Windows 8 more than he’s played with his cat, Colbert, over the last month or so. Poor guy.</em></p> download how-tos install operating system Software Software How-Tos usb key Windows Windows windows 8 Windows How-Tos Features How-Tos Mon, 29 Oct 2012 23:01:47 +0000 David Murphy 24409 at Cheat Sheet: 10 Tips And Tricks For Evernote <!--paging_filter--><p>We used to have a love/hate relationship with sticky notes. They were great for jotting stuff down, but over time the small yellow squares ended up consuming the entire surface of our desks in a slow, ever-expanding Blob-like wave. We could never find the note we needed when we needed it. It always ended in hysterical tears and missed appointments.</p> <p>Then we <a href="">downloaded Evernote</a>, and never touched a sticky note again. Plus, we started making it to our appointments on time. Or at least some of them.</p> <p>Once you create or edit a note in Evernote, the program backs up your data to the Evernote servers and makes it accessible from any device with the software installed. You can get Evernote for Windows, Macs and all the major smartphones, giving you access to your notes from almost anywhere. But there's more to Evernote than simple reminders: we've compiled 10 tips to help you squeeze as much as possible out of the surprisingly powerful application.<span style="color: #ff0000;">&nbsp;</span><span style="color: #ff0000;"> <br /></span></p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">More In Sync Than Justin Timberlake<br /></span></h3> <p>The core of Evernote's power lies in its syncing ability. By default, the program uploads all of your new and edited notes to the company's servers every 30 minutes. You can change the frequency by selecting "Tools" &gt; "Options" &gt; "Sync." If you need access to one of your notes on another device, and you need to do it <strong>now</strong>, click the "Sync" button in Evernote's toolbar to upload your changes to Evernote's servers immediately.</p> <p><img src="/files/u138055/evernote_main_screen.jpg" width="620" height="163" /><br /><em>Evernote's Sync button.</em></p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">Have SMTP Do The Work for You</span></h3> <p>As powerful as Evernote is, sometimes you just won't have access to it. If inspiration strikes while you're helping Grandma clean malware off her Mac, just shoot your Evernote account an email. Evernote sends you an email address for your account when you sign up. The subject of the email becomes the note's title, and the body becomes the content of the note. You can even categorize emailed notes by including modifiers in the subject: add @(notebook name) to assign the note to a specific notebook, and add tags with #(tag).</p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">Wanna Trade Pics?</span></h3> <p>A picture's worth a thousand words, especially if it's a picture of your totally cool case mod. The free version of Evernote lets you add images, audio files and PDFs to your notes simply by dragging and dropping them in. Smartphone users can just snap a pic with their camera, or you can add a supported file to an emailed note by including it as an attachment. Upgrade to the premium version and you can add any kind of file you'd like.</p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">Digitize Your Life</span></h3> <p>Adding images to your notes can be used for so much more than sending your mom pics of your Pomeranian. Handed a business card? Snap a shot of it and tag it with the person's name and business. Swimming in school notes? Don't want to lose the kick-ass idea spewed all over your whiteboard? Take a pic. Not only do you keep the information forever, but Evernote's awesome optical character recognition software can read your handwriting and turn the pictures of words into searchable text.</p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">Music To Your Ears</span></h3> <p>Eminem fans doing their best "Eight Mile" impression used to have to resign themselves to the fact that their battle-mic prowess was lost to the aether the second they spit out a hot lyric. No longer. Mobile Evernote apps include the ability to record audio notes, so you'll be able to record those spur-of-the-moment thunderbolts of inspiration while your fingers are otherwise occupied. Additionally, the <a href="">Voice2Note software by Power2Do</a> can transcribe your audio into text notes if you want a print version of your brainstorm. Voice2Note even maintains a dedicated phone line so that you can call in your notes completely hands-free.</p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">Add Web Pages to Your Notes</span><img src="/files/u138055/evernote_web_clipper.jpg" width="620" height="359" /></h3> <p><em>Adding Web content to Evernote in Firefox. <br /></em></p> <p>You can always just copy text from a website and paste it into a note, but you'd be losing a lot of the benefits of the Web. The modern Internet is chock full of media, baby, and <a href="">Evernote's Web Clipper plugin</a> grabs entire chunks of the screen at once, keeping images and formatting intact (for the most part). Simply download the Web Clipper add-on for your browser, then highlight a portion of a Web page. Right-click the excerpt and select "Add to Evernote." Bam! Done. The Chrome plugin adds even more functionality. Its "Simultaneous Search" option adds results from your Evernote tags whenever you search Google, so when you Google "Furry" pics, it conveniently tells you that you already have thirty teddy bear-sporting notes tagged with the term.</p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">Streamline Your Research and Shopping</span></h3> <p>The Web Clipper plugin makes it easy to compile multiple research sources into a single note. Rather than bookmarking each and every website you reference in your thesis, just create a new note and clip the appropriate snippets of each page into it. It works great for keeping track of websites and prices while comparison shopping, too. You can still add your own text to notes with clipped Web pages, so jotting down notations and extra details to go with the clips is easy.</p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">Show Me Yours And I'll Show You Mine</span></h3> <p>Users of Evernote's Mac and Web versions have been swapping notebooks for a while, but the feature only appeared on Windows earlier this year. Spamming Twitter or Facebook with your notes is easier than ever before thanks to the "Share" button in Evernote's toolbar. Just click it and choose how you want to share your grocery list with friends. Sharing whole notebooks is handled via the "Shared" tab in the left-hand navigation panel. Select which notebook you want to share, then choose to show your stuff to the entire world or to selected individuals via email. If you're using the free version, others can only see your notebook; upgrading to a premium account lets others alter shared notebooks, making it an awesome collaboration tool for business or creative types.</p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">Search Like A Pro</span></h3> <p>Evernote supports several modifiers that can help you unleash some serious Search-Fu. Preface your search with "Tag:" – minus the quotes – to limit your searches to notes with a specific tag. The "notebook:" modifer works the same way, only with notebooks. Add a minus sign to the front of a modifier to exclude compatible results from searches. Asterisks act as wildcards, just like they do in Google searches and DOS commands. Want an example? Search for "-tag:*" to show all your untagged notes. The "created:" modifier sorts by date. There's tons of depth to Evernote modifiers – so much that honestly covering them would take an entire article of its own. Check out <a href="">this comprehensive post over at Dropping Steps</a> for all the syntax info you'll ever need.</p> <p><img src="/files/u138055/evernote_modifiers_example.jpg" width="587" height="78" /></p> <p><em>Evernote search modifiers in action.</em></p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">Get Things Done With Checklists</span></h3> <p>Are you like Santa, constantly making a list a checking it twice? Evernote's got you covered. Just right-click in the body of a note and select "To-Do" &gt; "Insert Checkbox" to drop a checkable box into the note. It's perfect for creating shopping lists on the run.</p> <h3><span style="color: #ff0000;">No Love For Linux</span></h3> <p>A last, quick note for Linux fans: Evernote doesn't offer a Linux version. Sure, you could try to run the program in Wine, or you could just <a href="">download and install Nevernote</a>, an open source Evernote clone that fully interacts with the Evernote servers. Nevernote gets bonus points for including "Why is it so ugly?" as a topic in its documentation.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> 2011 cheat sheet evernote how-tos Software Software How-Tos tips tricks Features Web Exclusive Tue, 31 May 2011 22:44:59 +0000 Brad Chacos 18768 at Tech Tips: 15 Ways to Make iTunes Rock <!--paging_filter--><p>It’s hard to imagine that one could really tweak or improve iTunes in any particular fashion. I say that not because the software is perfect, rather, because it’s completely closed-source. Apple doesn’t have a list of extensions that you can just install into the application at a whim. If anything, iTunes is built for two purposes and two purposes alone: Buying stuff from Apple’s Store and transferring said stuff over to an Apple device of your choosing.</p> <p>Voila?</p> <p>Yet, the more I looked into ways that one can extend the iTunes experience, the more I found that yes, Virginia, there are plenty of different tools, add-ons, and techniques you can employ to really make this music application shine. And before you start in the comments, yes, I know that there are better music players than iTunes. However, that’s not to say that iTunes itself is a poor program—with a little tender love and care, you can make it as welcome in your home as any other program you enjoy. Trust me.</p> <p>Let’s get started!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Installing iTunes Sans Bloatware</h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_1.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="308" /></p> <p>The best place to start our journey toward iTunes awesomeness is, of course, at the point of installation. If you’ve ever used the application before, you’ll know that Apple—unfortunately—dumps a ton of crap on your system during the course of the iTunes install. This includes calls to startup programs that unnecessarily run behind-the-scenes on your system, a network service you likely don’t even need, browser plugins, et cetera.</p> <p>Ed Bott over at ZDNet has written a fine how-to for getting past all the annoying junk and installing, quite simply, iTunes. <a href="">Follow his advice</a> for a bloat-free music application!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Punish Ping</h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_2.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="192" /></p> <p>For whatever reason, you might not want to jump on-board with Apple’s Ping service. Perhaps your musical tastes are so esoteric that you want to keep your perfectly formatted library all to yourself—no sharing with friends and strangers anything you happen to rock out to and/or enjoy. That’s fine. Apple isn’t twisting your arm to sign up for Ping.</p> <p>Now, suppose you want to remove all the Ping options from your right-click context menu as well. There used to be a fancy little way to do it via a command prompt window. However, that’s since been replaced by an easier method: Click Edit, select Preferences, find the Parental Control tab, and check the box next to Ping.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Double Library Trouble</h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_3.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="174" /></p> <p>You ninja you; I would understand your desire to keep your less desirable music (say, the entire Spice Girls collection) out of the easily accessibility of iTunes’ shuffle feature. But there are many more reasons than that for why you might want to build separate iTunes libraries.</p> <p>Here’s how: Just hold the shift key before you launch iTunes. It’s as simple as that. The software will prompt you to either pick a library or create one. If you do the latter, your two libraries will exist completely independently of each other—which can be a pain if you want to, say, add some MP3s to both. Secrecy has its price!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Pretty Up Your Collection</h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_4.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Apple’s iTunes is pretty good about trying to match album artwork to the various songs and albums you have scattered about your library. But it’s not perfect, nor can your esoteric musical tastes (previously including such random bands as The Beatles) always be found in the iTunes store—the source for said artwork.</p> <p>To better figure out what you have to import manually, make a smart playlist (File &gt; New Smart Playlist). Once the associated window pops up, select “Has Artwork” as the rule and “is false” as the conditional. Once you click “OK,” you’ll have a self-updating list of albums that require your artistic touch!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Share Your Library</h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_5.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>If you’re running a fairly networked house, then odds are good that you’ll want to be able to access and modify a single iTunes library from any system you can get your grubby little hands on. No sense running multiple libraries across multiple computers with multiple duplicate files, right? As well, dialing into a single iTunes repository on a single system is great for file playback, but not so great for file editing.</p> <p>Our friends at <a href="">Lifehacker</a> have written up a fairly comprehensive (trust us; it’s a lot of steps) guide to maintaining a single, editable library across all of your networked systems. Take that, duplicity!</p> <p><a href=""><br /></a></p> <h2><a href="">“Share” Your Library</a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_6.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Here’s the deal–if you do happen to be in the situation where different computers on your network have different music files on them, it’s possible to grab the exact songs you want from any other networked iTunes application using a third-party piece of software. The app’s called <a href="">Aethyr</a>, and it’s an Adobe Air-based program that lets you “rip” music, as it were, from any other iTunes you can find on your network.</p> <p>We suppose this would be considered the “Holy Grail” of applications for one on a college dorm room network, but what you’re thinking about is illegal and wrong. Shame on you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><a href="">Dump Your iTunes to the Web</a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_7.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="160" /></p> <p>This one’s a little esoteric, so hear us out. The Web app “<a href="">Moof</a>” allows you to upload your library file to its servers and it, in turn, gives you the opportunity to jam to your files no matter your physical location.</p> <p>Huh?</p> <p>No, you don’t upload every MP3 (or whatnot) to the service. Nor do you have to pay any money to get access to the jams that Moof recognizes via your uploaded library file. Instead, this service uses the power of YouTube—specifically, videos featuring your songs <em>found</em> on YouTube—to give you an on-demand radio of sorts that, itself, is based on your iTunes library.</p> <p>That’s a mouthful… and a clever workaround to having to carry your entire musical collection on a portable hard drive wherever you go.</p> <p>For the most advanced tips of all, read on!</p> <p> <hr /></p> <h2><a href="">Remote Rock</a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_8.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>I often find myself envious of Apple fans, as they get access to all sorts of neat little tricks within iTunes—remote speakers, controlling playback via their handheld iPhones and what-have-you, other cool stuff like that. Well, worry not Windows user, for a fun little application called <a href="">Airfoil</a> allows you to set up a portable rock station anywhere in your apartment, house, or dwelling.</p> <p>So long as Airfoil is running on two networked computers, it’s super-easy to pump the sounds of one to the other. Because nothing’s more fun than DJ’ing a party from the comfort of your home office--or, for that matter, Rickrolling your friends unexpectedly. The program slaps noise into your broadcast after 10 minutes unless you buy the paid-for version… so if you’re really concerned about that, then try the freeware alternative <a href="">Speakershare</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><a href=";prev=_t&amp;hl=en&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;layout=2&amp;eotf=1&amp;sl=de&amp;tl=en&amp;u=;act=url"> Let iTunes Lull Yourself to Sleep </a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_9.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Pardon the German, but it’s been a real pain to try and find a working timer application that lets you use the power of iTunes to gently drift yourself off to slumber. The app <a href=";prev=_t&amp;hl=en&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;layout=2&amp;eotf=1&amp;sl=de&amp;tl=en&amp;u=;act=url"> Sweet Dreams </a> does just that, reducing the volume of your system over a period of time that you specify until, ideally, you’ve finally succumbed to sleep.</p> <p>Better still, this app will even shut off your system when the timer reaches the big fat zero—perfect for those that would like a gentle night’s sleep without the glare of a monitor pervading their room. So what’s this app’s major downfall? German. Still, with such few options to choose from, I’m willing to venture that you don’t need a few years’ language skills in your repertoire just to know what to do to enable a simple timer. Right? Gut.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><a href="">The Simpler Timer</a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_10.jpg" alt="" width="352" height="203" /></p> <p>If you really, truly can’t stand the thought of having to comprehend German to make your system’s sounds expire at a given time, here’s an easier solution: <a href="">ClickWhen</a>. This app, written by Lifehackers’ own Adam Pash, is simple in its execution. Launch it, then select a spot on your display that you want to click in a given time period from this very moment—like, say, the “pause” button on your iTunes screen. Then input a time.</p> <p>That’s it.</p> <p>Once the timer runs out, your mouse will magically click itself on the point you previously selected. It’s as easy as that. Yes, this app seems silly, but it’s always a perfect way to, say, give yourself 30 minutes of rocking before you have to go leave the house to do something, or switch over to a brand new playlist once your party has hit the three-hour mark. And yes, you can even have the app perform double-clicks as well. Two functions for the price of none!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><a href="">Sync Android to iTunes</a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_11.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="281" /></p> <p>How do I love thee, <a href="">doubleTwist</a>? Let me count the ways: one. You let me synchronize my Android phone with my iTunes library, which is almost a cats-and-puppies-as-friends kind of situation that, at first glance, should seem impossible.</p> <p>But I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. Grab the client application, grab the associated Android application, and you’re good to go. Soon, wireless synchronization of your songs will be within your grasp!</p> <p>If you don’t want an entirely new song client, however, then your best bet is to stick with good ol’ iTunes and a little app called <a href="">iTunes Sync</a>. So long as you flip your Android phone over to disk drive mode, you’ll be able to pull it up directly within iTunes—but more importantly, you’ll be able to use iTunes to manage the playlists that synchronize to your Android phone as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><a href="">Your iTunes Needs a Friend</a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_12.jpg" alt="" width="266" height="216" /></p> <p>Thus enters the application <a href="">iTuner</a>, a self-proclaimed “iTunes Companion” that, indeed, adds a ton of functionality within an easy-to-access button on your taskbar: “automated library maintenance, playlist exporting, playlist sychronization with MP3 players, global keyboard control, lyric discovery, and track and playback control. C#, WPF, MusicBrainz, iTunes APIs, and more,” reads the app’s official site.</p> <p>I only listed that as I did because there’s just too much that iTuner <em>does</em> to say it in any way other than a simple data dump. From automatically nuking missing and duplicate tracks in your library, to deleting empty folders within your main “music” directory, to global hotkeys that you can use to control iTunes regardless of whatever program is in your foreground… the list of that-which-iTuner-can-do is long and extensive.</p> <p>To be honest, it’s also an excellent replacement for the default iTunes Mini Player that now looks anemic by comparison.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><a href="">Global Hotkeys Beckon</a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_13.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>If the thought of global hotkeys mentioned in the above description for iTuner got you salivating, great! I’m not sure why this would be the case, but suppose you don’t really need or want the various features that said iTuner app provides—you just want hotkeys and vanilla iTunes. That’s it. Alright. Check out <a href="">HKTunes</a>, an open-source application that does just that: It adds global hotkeys to your system such that you can control iTunes without actually having to have the app running in the foreground.</p> <p>Playing World of Warcraft and want to stop your jams to concentrate on a specific boss fight? Easy. Want to jump tracks back and forth while writing up an article about iTunes? Totally possible. Need to change the iTunes volume on the fly? Get a multimedia keyboard… or memorize your HKTunes hotkey combination!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><a href="">Browse with Firefox and Rock with iTunes</a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_14.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="96" /></p> <p>Alright, Firefox users. Here’s one of the times when you get to do a little gloating over your Chrome-using compatriots. That’s because there’ s really no way to go about controlling what’s going on in iTunes via some kind of toolbar within Chrome. Firefox users get the awesome add-on <a href="">FoxyTunes</a> to do just that: You can see what’s playing, jump tracks back and forth, seek out specific parts of a song, and do all the sorts of things you’d expect to find on the iTunes Mini Player… right within your browser.</p> <p>Seriously. If you’re a Firefox aficionado, there’s no reason why you would ever want to <em>use</em> the default iTunes Mini Player over this full-featured extension. And as a super-fun bonus, FoxyTunes even comes with both an alarm clock and a sleep timer—perfect for the times when you want to take a little nap to the sweet sounds of Nine Inch Nails or something while a huge download finishes. Mmm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><a href="">Who’s Listening to my iTunes?</a> <a name="_GoBack"></a></h2> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u16580/itunes_1213_15.jpg" alt="" width="415" height="215" /></p> <p>Assuming you’ve enabled all the various music sharing mechanisms within iTunes, have you ever actually been curious to find out who’s connected to (and rocking out with) your system? While you can’t pull <em>that</em> much detail on the actual users attached to your iTunes via your network connection, you can at least see who has come into the jam session of your digital living room.</p> <p>Head on over to Microsoft’s site and grab the application <a href="">TCPView</a>. Once you’ve done that, fire it up and scroll on through until you find the iTunes listings—and, yes, the program automatically updates when connections drop on and off. If you don’t recognize the IP address or local address, which means it’s not your system’s name or “localhost,” then you have a fan who’s listening to your iTunes as we speak. If you want to pull the person’s plug, right-click on the corresponding line and select “End Connection.”</p> <p>Whoops!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Former Maximum PC Editor <a href="">David Murphy</a> doesn't mind iTunes that much, though he does hate iTunes' silly visualizations.&nbsp; Let's get some real graphics up in here, eh?</strong>&nbsp;</p> how-tos itunes list music music player Software Software How-Tos software tips stream tips tweaks Features Web Exclusive Tue, 14 Dec 2010 18:56:35 +0000 David Murphy 16083 at The 10 Best Ways to &*$% Up Your Computer <!--paging_filter--><p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/broken_windows.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="304" /></p> <p>We expend bunches of keystrokes detailing how to recover from disaster, everything from sweeping spyware from your system to how to get your data back from the digital graveyard, but equally important is how to avoid potentially catastrophic scenarios in the first place. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or in in the world of PCs, hours of frustration.</p> <p>On the flip side, maybe you have a masochistic desire to destroy your system. What better way to force your hand at upgrading then to render your current rig all but unusable? We don't condone killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars of hardware, but hey, it's your stuff at stake, and how you choose to use (or abuse) it is up to you.</p> <p>Either way, follow along as we show you the 10 worst things you can do to your PC and how to avoid them.</p> <h3>Downloading Virus Laden Torrents</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/pirateusb.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="305" /></p> <p>We all know what really goes on with BitTorrent and we're not about to pretend the only reason it's popular is because of capacious game demos and open-source Linux distros. BitTorrent picks up where Napster left off (before it went legit as a subscription-based music streaming service), serving up everything from legal content to copyrighted movies, music, and software. There, we said it -- behind all the winks and posturing, BitTorrent, if we're being <a href="" target="_blank">totally honest</a>, is a bastion of illicit downloading.</p> <p>Don't worry, we're not going to step on our soapbox and shout about the evils of stealing software, but if we can't convince you from a moral perspective to use BitTorrent only for snagging legal content, consider going kosher to keep your rig from becoming riddled with foul files.</p> <p>Here's the deal. Virus writers know exactly how popular BitTorrent has become, and combined with the allure of getting something for nothing, the temptation to fire up a free app clouds good judgment, making it all to easy to spread malware among the masses; This is what happened to users who went in search of<a href="" target="_blank"> pirated copies</a> of <strong>Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty</strong>. Moral objections aside, you're playing a digital version of Russian Roulette whenever you download illegal torrents, and even legitimate torrents can come laced with dirty files.</p> <p>We're not advocating that you should give up BitTorrent, but use the protocol wisely. Download your torrent links from trusted sources, and if you can't afford a piece of software, find a free or lower cost alternative before pirating a potentially booby-trapped package.</p> <p>For more BitTorrent tips, see our <a href="" target="_blank">20 Essential Tricks and Skills Every BitTorrent User Should Know</a> feature.</p> <h3>Liquid Cool the Wrong Way (Spilled Drinks)</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/spill_laptop.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="274" /></p> <p>Show of hands, how many of you have ever spilled a drink at your computer desk? For those of you who have, consider yourself lucky if the only thing that was ruined was your keyboard. And for everyone else, your time is coming. Knowing this, we still keep our caffeinated beverages close by, mainly because nobody has come out with a caffeine patch to get us going in the morning.</p> <p>Unfortunately, water and electronics don't mix, and neither does coffee, soda, beer, or any other liquids. The solution? Be careful. Other than that, it just boils down to common sense. You know, like don't rest your can of Amp on your desktop tower or on the edge of your desk directly above it and, if applicable, put the cap back on in between sips.</p> <p>If you do spill, not all is necessarily lost. Depending on where you spilled your drink, you'll want to unplug your PC as quick as you can, forgetting about a proper shutdown procedure. Disconnect the power supply from your motherboard and then assess the damage. Is there liquid all over the place? Carefully pat it dry. If you spilled something sticky, you can use a damp cloth to help remove the residue, and then pat your components dry again. Filtered water works best for this part, as it won't leave mineral deposits behind, and you can also use isopropyl rubbing alcohol for spot cleaning. When you're finished, keep the side panel off and let your rig air dry for a day or two. When it's completely dry, you can try turning it back on. If nothing fizzles and pops, you're back in business. Otherwise, sorry dude, your system is toast.</p> <h3>Liquid Cool the Lazy Way (Leaks)</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/watercooling.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="269" /></p> <p>The risk to reward ratio that comes from water cooling is dependent on how careful you are and how much research you put into your setup. Pre-assembled kits, for example, are about as safe as water cooling gets, though a sloppy install can still result in fried hardware.</p> <p>Where the real fun begins is when you piece together your own water cooling loop. The more elaborate your loop, the more chances there are for something to go awry, and we're not just talking about wet hardware. Something as simple as removing a heatsink from your videocard can go terribly wrong if you rush things.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/paperclip_psu.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="265" /></p> <p>Once you have everything installed and ready to go, you'll want to test run your water cooling loop to look for any leaks. If you're fairly certain you did a good job securing the hoses, you can shortcut the testing process by strategically placing paper towels in and around your hardware and punching the power button. But if you want to play it extra cautious, a better idea is to turn on just the water pump and leave your PC out of the mix. You can do this by shorting the PSU's main 20/24-pin ATX connector -- all you need is a paperclip, which you'll bend and plug one end into the green wire and the other into any of the black wires, and then flip the switch on the back.</p> <p>For more water cooling tips, see our "<a href="" target="_blank">Build a Kick-Ass Liquid Cooling System</a> -- 6 Simple Steps" feature.</p> <h3>Neglecting Air Vents</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/dirty_pc.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="304" /></p> <p>Those air vents might give your system an aggressive look, but they're not just for show. This is where cool air gets sucked into your rig and presumably blown over your components before being expelled from the back. A clogged vent will prevent your air cooling scheme from working its mojo, and that's bad for your hardware.</p> <p>Some enclosures ship with air filters while others go commando. Either way, it's critical that you keep dust and grime from building up and clogging these vents/filters. If you do have filters, remove them once a week or every other week and give them a shakedown. If they're really dirty, run a bit of filtered water through them to break up the gunk and then air dry.</p> <p>A can of compressed air also goes a long way. A series of short blasts will send dust packing. It doesn't get rid of the dust completely, but it does prevent the dirt from building up into clumps and clogging those vents.</p> <p>We also recommend a deeper cleaning about once a month (give or take, depending on how dusty your environment). Shut down your system, unplug the power supply, and rip the side panel off. Keeping your can of compressed air upright (if you tilt it, liquid will come spraying out), give a few quick blasts to your CPU heatsink, videocard, and anywhere else you see dust accumulating.</p> <h3>Choosing Weak-Ass Passwords</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/password.jpg" alt="" width="356" height="219" /></p> <p>Monalisa. ILovexxx (where "xxx" is the name of your significant other). 12345. QWERTY. Password. Can you guess what all these have in common? That's right Matlock, these are all terrible passwords that are easily guessed. Using one of these is like locking your car door but leaving the window wide open.</p> <p>Follow these tips to avoid inviting virtual ruffians into your digital world:</p> <ul> <li>Steer clear of <a href="" target="_blank">common passwords</a> at all costs. Sure, they're easy to remember, and by the same token,&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; they're&nbsp; also easy to guess.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Use a combination of alphanumeric characters, symbols, and punctuation. This will help keep your account protected from brute force dictionary attacks.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>If you have trouble remembering passwords, start with a phrase and use the first letter from each word, making sure to sprinkle in other characters (see #2).</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Avoid the temptation to write your password down, particularly in an office environment or anywhere else bustling with activity.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>For mission critical applications, consider using a password generator, like <a href="" target="_blank">this one</a> from PC Tools.</li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Keeping the Power On and Poking Around</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/powerswitch.jpg" alt="" width="374" height="295" /></p> <p>Back in the day, you needed a blueprint just to get inside your case. Not only did you have to remove a bunch of screws, but sometimes you even had to remove the front panel before you could lift open the chassis. Things are much improved now -- just twist a couple of thumbscrews and yank the side panel off.</p> <p>Before you go poking around inside, power down your system and unplug the power supply. You should also hold down the power button for a couple of seconds to discharge any lingering juice. The alternative is to go dinking around inside your system while it's still running. Not only do you risk frying something, but those fan blades hurt. Besides, there's not a whole lot you can do inside your computer while it's up and running anyway, so play it safe and power down.</p> <h3>Jam Your RAM</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/ram_install.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="223" /></p> <p>If you push hard enough, you can jam a square peg into a circle hole. Likewise, you can finagle a stick of DDR2 RAM into a DDR3 slot, insert a stick backwards, or plug just about anything in that doesn't belong with enough brute force. Sometimes it doesn't even take a lot of effort, or maybe we've just been working out.</p> <p>The point is this: if it doesn't fit, stop trying and reassess the situation. Did you pick up the wrong stick of RAM? Pay attention to how it's keyed and then line it up correctly rather than going for that homerun install by slamming a component into its slot in one quick motion. That might work for Thor, but for the rest of us, that's asking for trouble.</p> <p>This just doesn't apply to internal components. Those of you still rocking a PS/2 keyboard, we feel your pain. PS/2 connectors are notoriously finicky and have to be lined up perfectly or else the pins end up getting bent. And if you try forcing a USB stick in upside down, you could kill both the thumb drive and ruin your USB port.</p> <h3>Playing Rough with Processor Pins</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/bent_pins.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="293" /></p> <p>Remember that scene in Tommy Boy where Tommy's sitting in a diner holding a bread roll, caressing it with his hands until he gets too rough and turns the bread into crumbs? Your processor is just as fragile, or if you're running an Intel LGA775 platform or later, the processor socket is what you need to worry about.</p> <p>Let's start with AMD users and older Intel processor owners. Every pin on the bottom of your CPU matters, and the more pins there are, the easier they are to bend. If you're not extra careful when lining up your processor with the motherboard socket, you could bend or break a pin completely. If it's just bent, you can try readjusting it by using the tip of a mechanical pencil, but if it's broken off, it's game over.</p> <p>The situation is even more delicate for those on an Intel LGA775 or later platform. Rather than stick the pins on the processor, Intel positioned them on the motherboard and they're incredibly easy to bend. Avoid the temptation to run your finger across them, and never force your processor into the socket. If you bend the pins, you've just rendered the entire motherboard unusable.</p> <h3>Ignoring Antivirus Software</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/spyware.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="313" /></p> <p>Joe Blowhard from accounting swears that smart computing habits are all you need to surf safely on the Web and avoid falling prey to malware. Hell, we'll even concede it's entirely possible to shuffle unprotected through cyberspace without contracting a virus, and by playing it safe, you can even stack the odds considerably in your favor. But do we recommend going this route?</p> <p>Not a chance. Virus writers have become increasingly crafty in coding their wares, as well in delivering their foul files. And it's not just the Internet you need to watch out for. We know of cases where malware has come preinstalled on digital photo frames, USB keys, and even driver discs straight from the factory.</p> <p>Of course, the more risky your behavior -- like mucking around with keygens, downloading from untrusted sources, opening up email attachments with reckless abandon -- the quicker you'll take down your unprotected PC. If that's your goal, then skip our <a href="" target="_blank">Security Shootout</a> and roll through the Web naked (your PC, not you). Otherwise, suck it up and install antivirus software.</p> <h3>Leaving Software Updates Sitting on the Sideline</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/patch_windows.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="221" /></p> <p>Once a month, Microsoft releases a handful of patches for Windows designed to plug up security holes, improve performance, and kick reliability up a notch (you know this as Patch Tuesday). Adobe updates its notoriously buggy Acrobat and Reader software on a quarterly basis, though more recently the company has mulled moving to a monthly update schedule as well. Other software vendors may or may not have a schedule in place, but most of them allow for automatic updating, and it's a good idea to leave this enabled.</p> <p>Out of date software leaves you vulnerable to the latest hacks and exploits, making you an easy target for Internet scum. Think about it for a moment. If you're a hack looking to take down as many systems as possible, are you going to waste your time trying to punch your way through patched software, or prey on the lazy who have yet to update their software? It's a simple numbers game, and if you're rolling with unpatched software, you're at risk of becoming another statistic. This is how Conficker was able to spread so quickly.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u112496/secunia.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="290" /></p> <p>You don't always have to rely on auto-update schemes. Security firm Secunia makes an awesome piece of software called PSI (Free<a href="" target="_blank"></a>, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>) that scans all your programs and shows which ones have patches available. You can even update your outdated software right from within PSI.</p> <p>Can you think of any other computing no-nos we left off our list? Be sure to post them in the comments section below!</p> features how-tos Internet Software Software How-Tos Features Wed, 29 Sep 2010 22:44:59 +0000 Paul Lily 14610 at How To: Prepare For Your Online Afterlife <!--paging_filter--><p>It's a sign of the strange times we live in that even death isn't quite as absolute as it used to be. Everyone still dies eventually, but their carefully-crafted online personae live on. These digital remains can be a nice memorial or a disturbing remnant, depending on how well a person has prepared.</p> <p>So it's worth taking a few minutes to think about what happens to your online life when your real one's over. To help you out, we've put together a 12-step guide to getting your virtual affairs in order. It's a little macabre, yeah, but if you can get over the heebie-jeebies, it'll be time well spent.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u57670/pctombstone_sm.jpg" alt="" width="405" height="303" /></p> <p><strong><br />1. Start Taking Inventory</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="" alt="" width="405" height="310" /></strong></p> <p>Starting now, write down every password protected online asset that you use, as well as the passwords used to access them. If you're using a password manager such as KeePass, this job shouldn't take long. Include email accounts, website hosting passwords, social networking log-ins, online banking security questions, etc. Collect this information for a week or two, perhaps as long as a month, depending the size of your online presence.&nbsp; Make sure the information that you collect is secured on an encrypted flash drive or zip it with a password and send it to yourself attached to an email. At some point you'll have to assign an executor to look after everything, but for now, concentrate on getting the information in one place. <br />&nbsp;<br /><strong>2. Get Your Finances in Order</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Most of what you do online is free. One thing that isn't is also the one thing that you might want to have outlive you. Websites cost money every year, both the hosting and the domain name registration. Even if you don't set someone up to maintain your sites, the hosting and registration will likely be on auto-renewal. Planning for this now will make all the difference between being able to keep your cool domain name for perpetuity or losing it forever. OK, you won't care, but your kids might!</p> <p>Most web hosting and domain registration fees are charged to a credit card listed with each account. If you have the sense to prepare for your death by recording the password and log-in information, then it's simply a matter of changing the credit card information online with the hosting company. Charges will now be put on another card and the site will roll along peacefully. If you don't work out all of this beforehand, then your executor might find it too difficult to work through the maze of death certificates and legal issues that will confront them and both your site and your dot-whatever-name will vanish into the void. Even if you don't want to maintain the site, and you have a cool domain name, your executor could theoretically sell it and distribute the funds among your heirs.</p> <p>So much for paying money out. What about funds that come in (such as from ads on a site you run)? If you have given out the passwords to your executor, it's a simple matter to change the account information with Google or whoever else is paying out the dough on a simple ad revenue site.</p> <p>However, if there are items are being sold and a credit card company or Paypal is involved, it's vital that you sort all of this out with your financial institution beforehand. This is where a real will is needed to divvy up the money after you die. If there is going to be continuing income for someone, figure out how you're going to give them access to the website and to the money that the site generates. <br /><strong><br />3. Compose Your Famous Last Words</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="" width="400" height="323" /></p> <p>Now is the time to reflect on friends and relatives and attempt to say in words what they all mean to you. Notes, emails and written documents are welcome and probably will be treasured for longer than you might think. Jot down a list of the important people in your life, write a personal message to each one and lock it all up in email drafts or in a folder in your documents. Pass the information on to your executor and relax. Hopefully after this is done, you'll actually live a bit longer. Happy thoughts add years to your life, right?</p> <p><strong>4. Avoid Awkward Situations</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="" width="400" height="323" /></p> <p>While you might be right up there with the Dalai Lama in purity, almost everyone has things they'd rather have die with them. Before you give someone else access to all of the details of your online life, get rid of anything that might create some frowns when you're gone. References to anyone named Bambi should probably be ditched now. If you're a member of any sketchy websites, adjust your email settings for them before they have a chance to blemish your wholesome reputation. Think of marking updates from these sites as junk-mail to keep them out of your inbox. We're just sayin'.</p> <p><strong>5. Maintain Your Websites</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The hours that you've spent tuning your meta tags and keywords will all be in vain unless you pass on the torch to someone else before you permanently lose your connection. To avoid the dreaded 404, write down all of the hosting details, passwords, renewal dates, etc. With a major hosting firm, the transition will be seamless, provided that your successor has all of the necessary information. Ad revenue must also be considered. A joint bank account helps to keep this seamless as well. Remember to save any templates and resources that you used to create the sites. Maintaining and updating your sites will be much easier if your designated designer has all the information they need. Maybe some cash for a web design course for your executor wouldn't be out of line either. <br /><strong><br />6. Prepare Your Facebook Account</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>If you get to know the privacy settings in Facebook, you can tune your final exit now, leaving your executor the simple task of tagging and adjusting the settings after you're gone. Write your message in a note, scroll down to "Note Privacy" and set it to 'only me'. Once you've signed out for good, have your executor reset the privacy, allowing the pertinent person or persons to see your note. Maybe you could do a final photo album. Create it, lock it up and let your executor take care of it.<br /><strong><br />6.b. Dealing With Someone Else's Facebook Account</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>If you have missed the boat you won't be reading this, right? But if someone you know, a relative or a close friend, has recently died and you can't face seeing their profile languish unattended, here's what you can do. Head over to <a href="">this URL</a>. You'll find Facebook's 'Report a deceased person's profile' form. Fill it out, making sure you provide the link to an obituary or a news article that confirms the death. The friendly Facebook folks say that "Memorialising the account removes certain sensitive information and sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the Profile or locate it in search. The Wall remains, so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance."</p> <p>If the thought of some gibroni at Facebook rummaging through your profile (as if they don't already) scares the hell out of you then this is all the more reason to get your act together and start this whole process yourself. <br />Myspace will do the same thing : but you'll need a death certificate or obituary and be 'next of kin', not just a friend.</p> <p>Google, and all of their linked sites and services such as Gmail, Orkut and Google Chat, offers something similar : but you must prove that you are the legal representative of the deceased person.</p> <p>Do you see a pattern here? Instead of letting someone else manage your profiles for you, get off your ass and figure out what you want done with them while you're still chatting it up here on earth. If you prepare everything, then your friends and family don't have to deal with nasty things like death certificates and the legal red tape that is involved with proving someone is dead. </p> <p><strong>7. Record Your Final Rant on YouTube</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>If you've got fans and subscribers on a video site, record a video that sums up what you're feeling about them, the world in general or anything else that comes to mind. Adjust the privacy settings and have your executor publish it after your last 'Cut'! You might want to disable comments,too, in case some wise ass says something stupid. Just hope that it doesn't go viral.&nbsp;<br /><strong><br />8. Create a Safe Email Account</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Just in case your executor is tempted to send out emails pretending to be you, create a neutral account, and move your contact list over to it. Write some draft emails to different contact groups, mark them accordingly and put the account password with full instructions in your package. You might want to send a pre-death email from this account to everyone on your list, with an explanation, of course, in order for everyone to mark the new account as safe and not junk. Remember to update your contact list on a regular basis. </p> <p><strong>9. Keep it current.</strong></p> <p>Once you've got everything organized, emailed and zipped, make sure that you keep everything current. If you've made changes to anything in the chain of things that are you on the Internet, update your storage every now and then to reflect the latest versions of what was deemed important when you began. If new websites or accounts have been opened, make sure you add these to the mix. </p> <p><strong>10. Zip it and Encrypt it.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The final step in this exercise is to encrypt all the data that you've organized. Depending on the size of the files, you can email them to yourself at the neutral email account you've created or you could make hard copies. Passwords can be printed out and filed in a secure location, such as a safety deposit box with your will, but it might be better to lock them up on an encrypted DVD. Using TrueCrypt, burn a DVD every now and then which will reflect the current status of everything that you've decided to pass on when you pass on. Make the password something that is easy to remember and make it known to your executor in your will. <br /><strong><br />11. Are There Other Options?</strong></p> <p>If all of this is too much for you, don't despair. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to planning for your afterlife life. Some very smart people have set up websites that will guide you through the process...for a fee. Please read the disclaimer at the end of the reviews before you sign on the dotted to speak.</p> <p>One of the nicer sites we came across was based in San Francisco.<strong> Legacy Locker</strong> takes you through the sign up process and all succeeding steps in a direct and helpful manner. Sure, you still need all of the information just as if you were doing all of this yourself but with Legacy Locker, you are prompted for each detail. Overall, we liked the feeling of Legacy Locker. Fees for a lifetime membership are $299.00. This premium level gives you unlimited assets, beneficiaries and 'legacy letters' as well as both document backup and video uploads. A word of warning here. Legacy Locker's SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate showed as being expired for about a week during our research.</p> <p>Wouldn't it make sense that a site which states a concern for its users safety could at least keep an SSL to date? <br /><strong>Deathswitch</strong> is much simpler in its approach. Through the use of regular emails sent to you, Deathswitch waits for you not to respond. After a predetermined length of time without an answer from you, Deathswitch sends out your drafted emails, with attachments if you want, to a maximum of thirty with up to ten recipients each in the $19.95 per year premium plan. This approach seems best for anyone who doesn't have a large online presence. Deathswitch does not take into consideration things such as stroke or coma. What if you weren't dead, only disabled? After a certain period of time, everything you have collected to be sent out on your death is emailed on your behalf. Should you come back to an appropriate level of mental fitness later on, you might have a lot of explaining to do. Deathswitch also has a free account which will send one email, but no attachments, after your death. Because this system is based on non-response, no death certificate is required.</p> <p><strong>The Last Email</strong>, based in Spain and Brazil, had the slowest website that we've encountered in a long time. If you have minutes to wait for a page to load, check it out. Prices are in Euros and the most expensive plan allows for unlimited emails but only five megs of online storage.</p> <p><strong>My Last Email</strong> is an online obituary and memorial site which is based in England. Prices are in British Pounds. The website provides space for an online memorial, accessed by password only, as well as an online obituary which is open to anyone who has been given the link. We found the space very limited here, although you are allowed to upload a video that could run 'about ten minutes'.</p> <p><strong>My Web Will </strong>is only interested in your social networking life after death. For a fee, right now it's $9.95 per year for the 'beta' version, My Web Will will make the changes to your account that you have requested. You decide if you want to deactivate the account, change some information in it or transfer it to someone else. The only security breach possible with My Web Will is that your social network passwords and/or email passwords, should you decide to include them with your account, could be compromised. My Web Will works with all major networking sites including Facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo, Wordpress, etc. You will need to set up two verifiers. They will have to provide My Web Will with a copy of your death certificate before any changes are made to your various profiles.</p> <p><strong>12. But...</strong></p> <p>With everything from outdated security certificates to payments through Paypal, it seems that online merchants of everlasting virtual life want you to play a game of Who Do You Trust? Before you send a few megs of your data off to any of the companies mentioned here, take some time to think about the consequences. Remember that we're not talking about a hotmail password here. We're talking about substantial details of your personal life as well as financial data, in some cases. Are you ready to bundle all of this stuff up and send it off to a site loaded with Google ads and vague promises of 25 year guarantees? Hell, the Internet itself isn't twenty-five years old yet!</p> <p>In researching this article, we were appalled at the lack of professionalism displayed on the various company websites mentioned here. Poor navigation, limited information, incredibly slow servers...these sites had it all. If you've seen the Explorer 8 'Greater Offshore Bank &amp; Trust' ads on TV, you'll get the gist of what we're talking about. <br />Of the group, Deathswitch stood out because they don't handle much personal information. Their service is simple, affordable and, except for the Google ads on every page, the website is about the best of the bunch. For now, however, it might be better to wait. Two things could happen. One of these companies will take the lead and become the go-to outfit for these arrangements or a major software company will create some cool app that will walk you through the steps just as Quicken and Quicktax take care of your personal financial needs. <br /><strong><br />The End.</strong></p> <p>This isn't a one-size fits all guide to preparing for your own demise, but it should make you think about what's important to you. Hopefully, you will take some steps to eliminate problems for your family and friends after you shuffle off your mortal coil. Death doesn't have to be as final as it used to be.</p> features how-tos Internet social network Software Software How-Tos Features Wed, 01 Sep 2010 01:08:17 +0000 Brian Mahoney 14231 at How to Get the Most Out of Microsoft Bing Maps and Photosynth <!--paging_filter--><p>Don't let Google scare you into thinking they're the only search engine out there.  Microsoft's Bing offers users a solid, user friendly engine with a ton of features that set it apart from the competition.   In this article, we're going to dissect Microsofts patented search engine and bring you some basic tips to help get you started.  We'll also run you through some of Bings more distinct features, including 3D map capabilities and Microsoft's Photosynth system.   </p> <h2>General Tips:  <br /></h2> <p><strong>Summary Text</strong>- Did your latest search turn over far too many results?  Don’t fret, just use the Summary Text Icon located at the far right of available links for a brief summary of the article, so you can make a much more informed decision before commiting to a link.  </p> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_14-44-04_0.png" width="405" height="204" /></div> <p><strong>Related searches</strong>- Keep an eye on the left hand side of your screen, as Bing will often show you related searches in case you’re having a bit of trouble finding what you’re looking for.  Keep in mind that your browser most likely comes configured with an RSS button of some sort that will help link you to any available RSS feeds within your search parameters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div style="text-align: center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_15-09-20.png" width="191" height="411" /></div> <p>  <br /><strong>Use Bings Home Page- </strong>Bings home page dynamically changes on a day-to-day basis, often showcasing strange and exotic places and animals.  There are a handful of clickable icons strewn throughout these images that offer a bevy of random information about the posted picture of the day.  If you're a random knowledge fiend, Bings homepage can entertain you for hours.   <br /> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-06_15-19-48.png" width="405" height="260" /></div> <div align="center"> </div> <div><strong>Set your Preferences-</strong> Access Bings preferences menu by clicking Preferences on the top right corner of the homepage.  The preferences page allows you to restrict content, change language settings, and even choose the amount of search results displayed per page.   </div> <div> </div> <div> </div> </p><p><strong>Refine your Image Search</strong>- If you’re searching for images through Bing, make sure to explore the image options located on the left-hand navigation to find the image you need quicker.  Click and customize how you want your images to appear; choose from different layouts, sizes, colors and styles.  If you’re searching for specific types of portraits, you can have Bing search only for faces, or images that include both heads and shoulders.   </p><p>&nbsp;</p> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_14-45-40.png" width="405" height="251" /></div> <div> </div> <div>Notice the image tweaks that can be made on the left hand side of the browser.   </div> <div> </div> <div><strong>Utilize Bing Video Features:  </strong> Bings video interface is very accessible and fun to use.  Sorting and finding TV or movie related videos is quick and easy; results can be sorted by channel, box office popularity or season.  Music related videos can be searched by artist, genre and popularity as well.  Curious about a video but don’t want to view the whole thing?  Bing allows you to scroll your mouse over the video icon to watch a brief thumbnail preview with audio and a written summary before commiting to the jump.  </div> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-04_13-51-15.png" width="405" height="137" /></div> <div>Scroll over videos to watch a brief clip with audio and a written summary.   </div> <p><strong>Track Companies From Internet Explorers Tool Bar: </strong>Keep a close eye on the stock market?  Need to follow your money throughout the day?  To track critical stocks, punch in the abbreviation into the search bar (i.e. Microsoft= MSFT) to bring up the latest news on that particular stock, updated every half a minute.  Don't want to keep navigating back to Bing to keep up with the latest financial news?  Simply drag the search result into your browsers search bar bar, so you can click it no matter what website you're currently browsing.  </p> <p align="center">&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-04_14-18-53.png" width="405" height="190" /></p> <p>Clicking on your newly created  toolbar tab can help you keep track of important stock information no matter where you are on the web (This feature only works with Internet Explorer).  </p> <h2><strong>Maps: </strong></h2> <p>Bing's Map services are actually a lot of fun to use, and offers new and customizable features that set Bing Maps apart from its opponents. The default viewing mode upon opening up a map is Automatic view, which actually works quite well.  This option allows Bing to decide which view to use to help you properly find and view any continent, state, or city you’d like from a variety of available perspectives.  </p> <p><strong>Find the Place You’re Looking For-</strong> Use the search bar to enter in virtually any address and Bing Maps will take you there in real time.  You can also search states, regions and cities via the pop-up menu located on the bottom right of the interface. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div style="text-align: center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_14-50-32.png" width="405" height="156" /></div> <div style="text-align: center"> Type in any address in the search bar to have Bing Maps locate it for you in real time....  </div> <div style="text-align: center"> </div> <div style="text-align: center"> </div> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_14-55-14.png" width="200" height="471" /></div> <div>...Or use the pop up menu to search by state, county, or city blocks.   </div> <p><strong>Choose Your Perspective- </strong>Once you’ve gotten a closer look, we’ve found the Birds Eye option gives the most concise picture, skewing the camera at a slight angle to give the image a bit more depth.  Watching the different modes dynamically shift between viewpoints is also a very cool aesthetic as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div style="text-align: center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_14-58-15.png" width="265" height="398" /></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Go StreetSide- </strong>The StreetSide tool is also very intuitive - it allows you to grab and place a marker in busy areas, which pulls the camera street side, giving you the ability to virtually walk along the street as if you were there.  This feature is only available in downtown and populated areas,because would you want to walk the dusty outskirts of Vegas when you could walk the strip?  </p> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_16-04-08.png" width="405" height="201" /></div> <div align="left">Speaking of Vegas, here we have a nice view of the MGM Grand, which I searched for in the search bar to the left.  Clicking on the blue icon on the bottom center of the screen will allow us to go street side.  </div> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_16-11-27_0.png" width="405" height="202" /> </div> <div>Now we're street side.  Notice the blue magnifying glass on the right hand side of the screen?  That's  your mouse, which is now a magnifying glass that can be used to zoom towards any given landmark within frame.  If you would like to move away from your current location, drag your mouse over to the corners of the picture until the magnifying glass icon changes to a running man.  This indicates that the camera will actually shift its position, instead of simply zooming closer.   </div> <p><strong>Utilize Map Apps-</strong> The bottom left of the interface offers quite a few options as well, including a handy Explore tab that offers  up-to-the-hour traffic information, restaurant and hotel locations, and other nearby landmarks.  Below you’ll find a Map Apps tab that opens to reveal a plethora of available third party and in-home apps, including Roadside Attractions, Signs and Billboards, Urban Murals, and Microsofts own Photosynth, a visually awesome feature that we’ll touch on a bit later.  These apps can be sorted by categories, located in the top right corner of the Map Apps window, such as recommendation, title or publisher.  </p> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_17-05-37.png" width="405" height="187" /></div> <div> </div> <p><strong>Bing 3D Maps-  </strong>Bing Maps 3D is a open source program available for download at Bings maps page.  The software defaults to Internet Explorer; a slight setback if you're a frequent Firefox or Chrome user.  Overall, Bing Maps 3D works a lot like Google Maps but with a handful of innovative features that really improve the user experience.  </p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_17-29-01.png" width="405" height="221" /> </p> <p>Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s get to know the interface.  Bing Maps 3D defaults to a 3D globe.  Just as with the regular Bing map, your mouse scroller will zoom in and out and your left mouse button navigates.  Since you’re now working in three dimensions, holding CTRL will allow you to change your angle of vision.  There’s a slight learning curve to mastering the controls, mostly because the perspective change controls are inverted, but it should become second nature within a couple of minutes.  </p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-03_17-32-45.png" width="405" height="221" /></p> <p>A 3D digital recreation of downtown San Francisco.  </p> <p>In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, there are some really awesome features available in your tool box that allow you to check traffic congestions along nearby roads, print or send your map to a friend, or find directions mapped out in 3D.  These options are located at the bottom left of the screen.  </p> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-04_10-24-58.png" width="405" height="218" /></div> <div>Checking downtown SF traffic using Bing Maps 3D.  The 3D toolbox is located on the bottom left corner of the screen.  </div> <p><strong>Use Photosynth- </strong>Photosynth is a new feature from Microsoft and is definitely worth checking out.  A Photosynth is essentially a compilation of photographs taken from different positions that allow you to see all angles of a given landmark .  The technology implemented in order to streamline this effect is visually extremely impressive and is also a great way for you to tour your surrounding environments, not just locally, but world wide.  Ever wonder what the Eiffel Tower looks like, up close?  Or what the view <em>from </em>the Eiffel Tower looks like?    </p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-04_10-42-16_0.png" width="405" height="181" /> </p> <p>There are two ways to access Photosynths.  To find all of the surrounding Photosynths in your area, simply head over to your Map Apps and select Photosynth.  Once the App is open, you can also search for Photosynths using the search bar (i.e. Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge, etc).  The map will take you to the landmark in real time and offer you a series of different Photosynths for that given location.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div style="text-align: center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-04_10-58-26.png" width="405" height="217" /></div> <div style="text-align: center"> </div> <div align="center" style="text-align: center">The thumbnail images represent available Photosynths surrounding the Golden Gate Bridge in the center of the map.  Not every available Photosynth has its own image; each of the green icons represents a different Photosynth.  </div> <div style="text-align: center">           </div> <p> What's more, you don't even need to specifically search for landmarks.  Part of the fun of discovering Photosynths is simply finding them strewn throughout random places.  Some of the coolest Photosynths I found in San Francisco weren't famous landmarks at all, they were just  random spots with some amazing views.  </p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"> <img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-04_11-17-24.png" width="405" height="207" /></p> <p>This is a Photosynth of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  The photosynth can be navigated by clicking virtually anywhere on the image, or by using the control panel located along the bottom of the screen.  Dragging your mouse over different parts of the bridge will create selection squares around seperate sections, which is a cue for you, the user, to know where you'll be moving the camera.  The mouse in this image, for example, is fixed on the bridges arch.  Clicking that particular section will move the camera in closer, creating an image within the defined parameter of the selection square.   </p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-04_12-13-07.png" width="405" height="198" /> </p> <p>The image now zooms in real time on the arch selection.  You'll notice that different selection squares become available for further zooming.  Playing with these selection squares is key to navigating any given Photosynth.  Like Bing's 3D maps, clicking on selection squares to the far left or right of the image allow you to radically alter your position, changing perspective for a different angle of the subject.    </p> <p align="center"> <img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-04_12-21-51_1.png" width="405" height="197" /></p> <p>Here, we've used the selection boxes to actually steer the camera into a different perspective.  </p> <p>When you type in a landmark, like, say, the Golden Gate Bridge, Bing will take you to the general area on the map, then give you a couple of options in regards to what you’d like to do with the location.  The Photosynth option is usually labeled Dive into Photosynth and is located on the left hand side of the search bar, next to available pictures that can also be clicked and open if you’re simply looking for stock images of the location.   </p> <p>Once you’ve accessed a photosynth, you aren’t limited to only that collection of photos.  Click over to the Other Photosynths Nearby tab to browse tons of different folders containing photos from different angles, at different times during the day.  There are an endless amount of Photosynths scattered throughout the world, so venture forth on a journey of discovery! </p> <div align="center"><img src="/files/u107541/tn_greenshot_2010-05-10_11-22-20.png" width="405" height="237" /></div> <div>Part of the fun of Photosynth is the sheer numbers of available material to click on.  Though there are only a couple of sample photos in the picture above, every single green camera icon is actually a seperate Photosynth uploaded to Bing from a different user.   Mouse over any of these icons to see what the landmark is and how many photos make up that particular Photosynth. </div> <p>  </p><p>&nbsp;</p> Bing how-tos microsoft Photosynth Software Software How-Tos Features Tue, 08 Jun 2010 17:35:30 +0000 Alan Fackler 12237 at How To: Restore Netflix Support in Safari 5 <!--paging_filter--><p>Following the recent launch of Apple's Safari 5 Web browser, users have been <a href="">reporting</a> that Netflix streaming no longer works. We expect this to be sorted out rather quickly, but in the meantime, there's a pretty simple workaround - use a better browser. Oops, did we just say that?</p> <p>We kid (kind of). For those of you who want to stick it out with Safari, you can take matters into your own hands until an official fix is in. The problem stems from the browser agent string, which Netflix doesn't yet recognize as a supported browser. All you have to do is change this back to Safari 4.1 and you're golden. Here's how:</p> <p>Click the Gear icon (Settings) and select <strong>Preference &gt; Advanced. Check the &quot;Show Develop menu in menu bar&quot;</strong> box. Now click the Paper icon (Menu) and select <strong>Develop &gt; User Agent &gt; Safari 4.1 -- Mac</strong> (yes, you select this option even on a Windows machine).</p> <p>That's it, you're now ready to one again stream Netflix movies and TV shows to your browser. Just be aware that if you later plan to surf a Safari 5 optimized site, you'll want to switch this back.<br /> </p><p align="center"><img src="/files/u69/Safari_Develop.jpg" width="405" height="256" /></p> apple browser how-tos movies NetFlix Safari Software Software How-Tos Software News streaming video News Tue, 08 Jun 2010 14:05:19 +0000 Paul Lilly 12820 at 20 Instant Upgrades to Make Chrome Better than Firefox <!--paging_filter--><table border="0" align="right"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"> digg_url = ''; </script><script src="" type="text/javascript"></script></td> </tr> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"> tweetmeme_url = ''; </script><script type="text/javascript" src=""></script></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>Show of hands - how many of you are still clinging to Firefox not because it's the perfect browser, but because it's the best alternative out there to Internet Explorer? Probably a good many of you, and the reason why Firefox has been so hard to supplant as the No. 2 gateway to the Web is because Mozilla had the foresight to make it extensible. Thousands of add-ons exist allowing users to custom tailor the open- source browser however they see fit, and it only takes a few mouse clicks to do so.</p> <p>Well move over Mozilla, and make room for Google Chrome. Why is that? To start with, Google recently added extension support to Chrome, which was previously only available in beta builds. Now that Google has given users the green light to install third-party add-ons, it's a brand new ballgame in the browser world. And in case you haven't heard, Chrome also supports Greasemonkey scripts, of which there are over 40,000 to choose from.</p> <p>But those aren't the only reasons to give Chrome a second look. Google continues to tweak the underlying code and add features to what's already a fast, lean, and intelligent browser. Chrome is also highly tweakable, though you wouldn't know it by glancing at the sparse interface.</p> <p>On the following pages, we'll show you how to soup up Chrome so you can leave Firefox in the rear view mirror and never look back! </p> <h2>Master Chrome's Essential Shortcuts</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Don't fret if you've spent years learning Firefox's shortcut keys, most of the basic ones are retained in Chrome, such as opening a new window or tab. This makes transitioning to Chrome a piece of cake, though there are more than a handful that are specific to Chrome only. Whether Chrome- specific or cross-browser, here's a list of some of our favorites: </p> <ul> <li><strong>CTRL+N</strong>: Open a new window</li> <li><strong>CTRL+T</strong>: Open a new tab</li> <li><strong>CTRL+Shift+N</strong>: Open a new window in incognito (private) mode</li> <li><strong>CTRL+O, then select file</strong>: Open a file from our PC in Chrome</li> <li><strong>Hold CTRL and click a link (or use middle mouse button) </strong>:Opens link in new tab</li> <li><strong>Hold CTRL+Shift and click a link</strong>: Opens a link in a new tab and switches to it</li> <li><strong>CTRL+Shift +T</strong>: Reopens the last tab you've closed, up to 10 tabs </li> <li><strong>CTRL +1</strong> through CTRL+8: Switches to the tab at the specified position</li> <li><strong>CTRL+B</strong>: Toggles the bookmarks bar on and off</li> <li><strong>CTRL+Shift+B</strong>: Opens the Bookmark manager</li> <li><strong>CTRL+H</strong>: Opens the History page</li> <li><strong>CTRL +Shift+J</strong>: Opens Developer tools</li> <li><strong>F1</strong>: Opens the Help Center in a new tab </li> </ul> <p><strong>Address Bar Shorcuts</strong></p> <ul> <li><strong>CTRL+Enter</strong>: Adds www. and .com to your input and then opens the resulting URL</li> <li><strong>CTRL+K or CTRL+E</strong>: Places a '?' in the address bar</li> <li><strong>CTRL and left or right arrow</strong>: Moves the cursor to the preceding or next key term in the address bar </li> </ul> <p><strong>Webpage Shortcuts</strong></p> <ul> <li><strong>CTRL+F5 or Shift +F5</strong>: Reloads current page and ignores cached content</li> <li><strong>CTRL +D</strong>: Bookmarks current page</li> <li><strong>CTRL+U</strong>: Opens the source of your current page</li> <li><strong>CTRL+0</strong>: Returns page to its normal size </li> </ul> <p><strong>Other Shortcut Tips</strong> </p><p>To quickly delete a specific entry from your browsing history that shows up in the drop-down menu of your address bar, highlight the entry and press <strong>Shift+Delete</strong>. And to select the first or last entry in the drop-down menu, press the <strong>Page Up</strong> or <strong>Page Down</strong> key. </p> <p>These are just some of the shortcuts you can use in Chrome (and Windows). For a full list, see Google's support page <a href=";answer=95743">here</a>, which also lists shortcuts applicable to Mac and Linux users.</p> <h2>Make Use of Your Mouse</h2> <p>Once you've mastered a few handy keyboard shortcuts, it's time to shift focus to your other input peripheral, the computer mouse. Learn these as well and you'll be surfing the Web at record speed.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>One of our favorite tricks involves navigating back or forth through our page history. We often find ourselves venturing several links deep on a webpage. If you're like most users, you probably think that going back to the beginning means mashing the back button repeatedly and hoping you don't overshoot your target, but there's a much easier way. Simply click and hold on the Back or Forward button to see a list of links you've navigated. You can also right-click to bring up this drop-down menu of links.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Another handy feature in Chrome, and that one that isn't duplicated in Firefox (not out of the box, anyway) is the ability to paste a link and go directly to it without ever hitting the Enter key. Just right-click the address bar and select 'Paste and go'. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>Particularly handy for bloggers but also useful for forum posts, Webmail, and other online forms, you can resize any text area in Chrome. All you need to do is click and drag the lower right corner. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>If you need to quickly resize an entire webpage, hold down the CTRL key and scroll up (enlarge) or down (decrease) with your mouse's scroll wheel. To reset the page back to normal, either scroll back to the appropriate size, or press CTRL+0.</p> <h2>Manipulate Chrome with Startup Switches</h2> <p>Maybe you always want to hide your tracks when surfing the Web and are only interested in Chrome's Incognito mode. Or perhaps you're trying to speed things up by disabling Java, Flash, plugins, and other features. By utilizing startup switches, you can manipulate how Chrome loads up. Here's how.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Right-click the Chrome shortcut on your desktop or Taskbar and select Properties. Navigate to the Shortcut tab and pay attention to the Target field. This is where you'll be entering in command line switches. Depending on which OS you're using and where you installed Chrome, you should see something like this:</p> <p><strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe</strong></p> <p>When you find a switch you want to use, append it to the end, making sure to leave a space in between <strong>chrome.exe</strong> and the switch.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>There are a lot of things you can accomplish with switches, and we're going to share some of them here. To add a Bookmarks button Chrome's toolbar, you would use the command line switch -bookmark- menu. The full path in the Target field would then read:</p> <p><strong>C:\Users \[USERNAME]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Applications\chrome.exe -bookmark-menu</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>We don't necessarily recommend using all of these, but if you want to try speeding up Chrome, you can disable a handful of functions with these switches (separate each one with a space when entering them in):</p> <p>-disable-dev-tools<br />-disable-hang- monitor<br />-disable-images<br />-disable-java<br />-disable-javascript<br />-disable- metrics<br />-disable-metrics- reporting<br />-disable-plugins<br />-disable-popup- blocking<br />-disable-prompt-on- repost</p> <p>See <a href="">here </a>for a list of more switches you can experiment with. And remember, if you don't like the effect, all you have to do is remove them! </p> <hr /> <h2>Set up Multiple Home Pages</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>You probably have a handful of sites you visit every morning, right after you finish checking your email and before getting down to business. Maybe you surf to ESPN for your sports news, Maximum PC for all things tech, and The New York Times for world events. So which one takes precedence as your browser's home page?</p> <p>In Chrome, it can be all of them! It doesn't matter how many pages you surf to when you first fire up your browser, Chrome will happily open each one, whether you regularly visit just a couple of sites, or a dozen or more.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>To take advantage of this feature, click on the Tools button (wrench icon) and select Options. Under the Basics tab, click the 'Open the following pages' radio button where it says 'On startup.' Mash the Add button to select from a list of recently visited Websites, or manually enter the URL. </p> <h2>Search with Power </h2> <p>Quick, how many search engines can you rattle off? Most of you probably came up with 5 or 6, and a few of you may be able to recite 10 more. But the number of search engines you can configure with Chrome is pretty close to endless. More on that in a minute, let's first look at how to change the default option.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>It should come as no big surprise that Chrome ships with Google as its default search engine, but maybe you'd rather use Bing. No problem, just navigate to Tools&gt;Options and click on the Basics tab. Towards the bottom third of the window is where you can select from a list of search engines. Just choose the one you want from the pull-down menu and click Close.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>Pretty basic, right? Now here's where things start to get a little more fun. With Chrome, search is made super easy for any site Chrome recognizes has a search engine. Want to search for Die Antwoord videos on YouTube? Start typing YouTube's address in the Omnibar and a message will appear on the right- hand side saying 'Press tab to search' Do as it says (hit the tab key) and type in your search term. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>To speed things up even more, you can customize your search engines with keywords. To create a keyword for, for example, you would click on Tools&gt;Options. Bring up the Basics tab and press the Manage button located next to Default Search. This brings up a window showing all the search engines Chrome currently recognizes. Scroll down and see if is already there. If so, highlight it and click on Edit. If not, mash the Add button instead.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>We want to create a keyword that tells Chrome to search with Google. There are three fields we need to fill in, the first being the name. We can name this Maximum PC, or if we want to be more specific, we can name it Maximum PC Google. For the keyword, we'll use the letters 'mpc.' And for the search URL, here's what it should read:</p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p>Now whenever you want to perform a Google search for content only on, you would type <strong>mpc</strong> into the Omnibar and press tab, followed by your search term. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>But wait, there's more! We can use a similar trick to setup a custom search engine that's already integrated onto a Website. We'll again use for our example, but this will work with any site that has a search function. What we're after is the URL that pops up when performing a search, so in this example, perform a search on Maximum PC for 'Intel' or any other term. Hit return and notice the URL. It should read:</p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p>Copy the above URL to your clipboard. Next, right-click the Omnibar and select Edit Search Engines. Press the Add button and fill out the fields like you did above (Name, Keyword, URL), only this time, replace the search term ('Intel') with <strong>%s</strong>. Your fields should look similar to this:</p> <p>Name: <strong>Maximum PC Search</strong><br />Keywords: <strong>max</strong><br />URL: <strong></strong></p> <p>If you often search through Google Images, this little trick can be a huge time saver. Just use the following URL when creating a custom search engine:</p> <p><strong>;hl=en&amp;q=%s&amp;btnG=Search+Images </strong></p> <h2>Live on the Bleeding Edge with Beta and Developer Builds</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Nobody can accuse Google of standing still, and one of the coolest things about Chrome -- and all Google products, really -- is that it's constantly being developed. We're not talking about lame additions either (though some forgettable features inevitably pass Q&amp;A), but useful, and sometimes unique additions. You can especially see this with Gmail, where a ton of experimental add-ons exist under the Labs tab, but Chrome keeps moving forward as well.</p> <p>Unfortunately, Google has also built a reputation for being content to let coveted features sit in beta for far too long. We supposed this is a better alternative than playing with a half-baked product, but never was the frustration higher than when we sat waiting patiently for Chrome to add support for extensions.</p> <p>But here's something you may not have known. While extensions and other features are relatively new additions to Chrome, beta users have been enjoying them for months. Ready for some good news? There's no requirement to meet or registration form to fill out in order to be a beta tester, you just have to be willing to put up with potentially buggy code. And if that doesn't scare you off in the slightest, you may want to consider joining the Dev channel, which is sort of like paying with alpha code. Let's break these down.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p><strong>Chrome Dev Channel<br /></strong></p> <p>Dev, as you probably guessed, is short for developer, and that's who this channel is really targeted towards. However, there's nothing stopping you or anyone else from joining Chrome's Dev channel and playing with freshly baked features. Just be warned that these are often not yet fully cooked, so they may be broken, unstable, or ultimately destined for the dust bin.</p> <p><strong>Chrome Beta Channel</strong></p> <p>As any frequent beta can attest, beta software can range from horribly unstable to surprisingly refined. Google's beta products tend to lean towards the latter, and Chrome is no exception. That doesn't mean you won't ever experience crashes or other quirky behavior with a Chrome beta build, but we've found these incidents to be pretty few and far between. Plus, Google only promotes complete and stable features from the Dev channel to the Beta channel, so it's a great way to get a jump on upcoming functionality before they go public. </p> <p><strong>Where to Join</strong></p> <p>Joining one of these channels entails installing the appropriate version of Chrome (developer or beta build), and once you do, you'll automatically be updated to later versions as they become available. Use these links:</p> <p><strong>More Info</strong>: <a href=""></a><br /><strong>Dev Channel</strong>: <a href=""></a><br /><strong>Beta Channel</strong>: <a href=""> extra=betachannel</a></p> <hr /> <h2>Set up and Manage Multiple Profiles</h2> <p>There are few different reasons for wanting to create separate profiles in Chrome. For one, maybe you have a hankering for, um, 'entertaining' sites, but you don't want the URLs to show up as search suggestions when someone else is using the PC. Yes, that's what Incognito mode is for (well, one of the things), but not everyone wants to load up a stealthy browser just for certain sites. On top of that, once you exit Incognito, all your history for that session is gone, not just the illicit variety.</p> <p>Another reason for separate profiles is simply to stay organized. If your kids use your PC, do you really want Chrome suggesting Sponge Bob and Twilight links when you're surfing the Web? Probably not, and the more people you let use your PC, the harder it is to sift through your history when you want to find a specific link. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Ready to create a profile? You'll need to navigate to Chrome's User Data folder on your hard drive. Depending on which OS you own, you'll find this folder by navigating to:</p> <p><u><strong>Windows XP</strong></u>*<br /><strong>C:\Document and Settings\[USERNAME]\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\User Data</strong></p> <p><u><strong>Windows Vista and Windows 7</strong></u>*<br /><strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data</strong></p> <p><strong>*</strong><em>Note that you may need to enable viewing hidden files and folders. Open up My Computer, press Alt, and select Tools&gt;Folder Options. Select the View tab and check the 'Show hidden files, folders, and drives' radio button.</em></p> <p>Next, make a copy of the Default folder in the above location. Just right-click and select copy, and then paste it into the same directory. To save space, and to give the new profile a fresh start, it's a good idea to clear your browser cache before doing this.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>When you paste the copied folder, Windows will name it Default - Copy, or something similar. Go ahead and rename this to whatever you want to call your new profile (right-click, rename). When you're finished, navigate back to Chrome's Application Data folder (or Application on Vista and Windows 7). Right-click chrome.exe and select Create Shortcut.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Right-click the new shortcut you just created and select Properties. Bring up the Shortcut tab, and in the Target field, cut/paste the following:</p> <p><strong><u>Windows XP<br /></u></strong><strong>C:\Documents and Settings\[USERNAME]\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe –user-data-dir=&quot;..\User Data\[PROFILE NAME] &quot;</strong></p> <p><strong><u>Windows Vista and Windows 7<br /></u></strong><strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application \chrome.exe –user-data-dir=&quot;..\User Data\[PROFILE NAME] &quot;</strong></p> <p>Save the changes and then drag the new shortcut to your desktop, and be sure to rename it so you can keep track of which shortcut launches your profile. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>If you don't want to go through all that trouble of creating a new profile, there's a free program called Google Chrome Backup (not affiliated with Google) that streamlines the process. You can also use this to backup and restore profiles, and all with just a few self-explanatory mouse clicks. You can download the program <a href="">here</a>. </p> <h2>Get Familiar with About: Pages<br /></h2> <p>Special About pages are nothing new when it comes to browsers, and while Chrome doesn't have a tweakable about:config page like Firefox does, there are plenty of other commands recognized by Chrome. To access them, you type the command in the Ominbar just like you would a Web address. Here are some of the more useful ones. </p> <p><strong>About:DNS</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>One of the things that helps give Chrome its zip is a feature called <a href="">DSN prefetching</a>, or otherwise known as pre-resolving. The idea here is that rather than wait for DNS to resolve domain names, Chrome takes a proactive approach by resolving domain names while a user views a webpage. According to Google, this can result in an average of 250ms faster load times when first visiting a domain than with traditional browser. </p> <p>Type about:dns into the Omnibar allows you see data about which sites are cached and how many of them have benefited from this technique.</p> <p><strong>About:Cache</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>This one lists all the items contained in Chrome's cache, with each one hyperlinked. </p> <p><strong>About:Memory </strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>Need proof that Firefox's well-documented memory leak still exists? There are several ways to get it, including typing about:memory in Chromes Omnibar. Doing so brings up a page displaying all kinds of memory stats, such as how much total RAM Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers are chewing up, as well as breaks down Chrome's individual processes and tabs. </p> <p><strong>About:Plugins </strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Displays a list of installed plugins, like Silverlight, QuickTime, Winamp, Hulu Desktop, and any others. Also tells you which ones are enabled, and some of them include short descriptions. </p> <p><strong>About:Version</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Just like the 'About Google Chrome' link accessible via the Tools menu, only more detailed. In addition to the overall browser version, this also displays the WebKit version and V8 engine info. </p><p>There are a handful of other About pages to play around with, including:</p> <p><strong>About:Stats<br />About:Network<br />About:Crash<br />About:Internets </strong>(Windows XP only)</p> <hr /> <h2>Try Out a New Look with Themes</h2> <p>Probably one of the biggest complaints (or benefits, depending on who you ask) with Chrome is the browser's minimalistic interface. There just isn't much to look at, and quite frankly, it's bland. That might be okay in some circumstances, but if you've taken the time to deck out your desktop (like we showed you in our <a href="/article/howtos/howto_deck_out_your_desktop_rainmeter">Rainmeter guide</a>), then why not spend some time getting your browser to match?</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Applying a theme couldn't be easier. Just head over to <a href="">Chrome's Themes Gallery</a>, browser around, and mash whichever 'Apply theme' suits you. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Don't be bashful about trying out different looks. If you don't like, just hit the Undo button that appears immediately after installing a theme. If you've already closed the box and/or want to revert back to the default look, navigate to Tools&gt;Options, select the Personal Stuff tab, and press 'Reset to default theme.' </p> <p>While you're browsing themes, be sure to also check out <a href=""></a> for even more great looks. </p> <h2>Keep Chrome Accountable</h2> <p>Whenever your system starts to feel sluggish, one of the first things you do is hit up the Task manager (CTRL+ALT+DEL) so you can audit every process and piece of software that's running. But did you know that Chrome comes with its own Task Manager?</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>It does, and it's pretty informative. To access it, just press Shift+Esc. By default, you'll be shown a basic view of running Chrome processes and how much memory and CPU percentage each one is using, as well some network stats. If you run into a problematic plugin or tab that's simply taking up too much memory, just press the End process button. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>While pretty basic at first glance, Chrome's built-in Task Manager contains a few hidden monitors that can come in handy. Right-click anywhere in the Task Manager window and choose to display or hide Image Cache, Script Cache, JavaScript Memory, and a handful of others.</p> <p>For even more details, press the 'Stats for nerds' URL in the lower left corner, which brings up an about:memory page. </p> <h2>Edit Web Pages That Aren't You're Own!</h2> <p>Don't worry, we're not about to toss our morals off the Golden Gate Bridge and show you how to hack someone else's site, at least not in the way you might think. We are, however, going to show you how to edit any website in cyberspace, whether you're the rightful owner or not, except the changes will only be visible on your end.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>To edit someone's website locally, simply right-click any part of the page you want to alter and select Inspect Element. This brings up a window in which you're then able to inspect, edit, and debug various components, such as HTML code, CSS, or JavaScript. Anyone experienced with Web design will feel right at home, but the interface can be more than a little overwhelming if you're not a code junkie. </p> <p>What's cool about the Elements tab is that any changes you make appear on the webpage in real time. But developers and webmasters will also find loads of value in the Resources tab, which reveals the resource consumption of each element. </p> <hr /> <h2>Create App Shortcuts to Any Site or Bookmark</h2> <p>One of Chrome's unique features is the ability to create site-specific shortcuts to your favorite sites, web apps, or bookmarks. By using Chrome as a site-specific browser, you can open up Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, or any other site or service in its own window with a shortcut installed to your desktop, Start menu, or quick launch bar (or all three). Here's how.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Open up the site in a separate window. For this example, we'll use Facebook. To open a new Chrome window, press CTRL+N, or find the option in the Tools menu. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="376" height="329" /> </p> <p>Once you've loaded up the site you want to make a shortcut for, open up the Page menu and select 'Create application shortcuts...' In some cases, you'll a short description of the site, along with three options for creating shortcuts. Choose as many as you want and press Create.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>Whenever you use your newly created shortcut(s), the site will launch in its own window, but without the browser controls, bookmarks, and any other browser-related clutter. </p> <h2>Synchronize Your Bookmarks</h2> <p>Not that long ago, it was a pretty big hassle setting up Chrome to synchronize your bookmarks. It involved downloading the developer build, creating a shortcut, and adding a line of code. Once you did all that (and assuming you did it correctly), the option would then appear in Chrome.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>What a difference a few months make. Chrome's developers got on the ball and made it super easy for anyone to sync up their bookmarks, not just those who like to play with experimental code. No matter which browser you're using (stable, beta, or developer), open up the Tools menu and select 'Synchronize my bookmarks...' You'll need a Google account for this, which you most likely already have (if not, click the link the create one). </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Once you fill in your credentials, Google will sync up your bookmarks to Google Docs. To sync and access them on another PC, just repeat the above step. Easy, right? </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>If you ever want Google to stop syncing your bookmarks, just head back into Tools&gt;Bookmarks synced... and bring up the Personal Stuff tab. At the very top you'll find an option to 'Stop syncing this account.' </p> <h2>Honey, I Shrunk My Tabs - And It's Awesome!</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>This is one of our favorite tricks. Why? Well, you only have so much screen real estate to work with, and even less when working in your browser. If you're a heavy Web surfer, it's not uncommon to have several tabs open at once. We're not talking about 3 or 4, but a dozen or more.</p> <p>It quickly adds up to a lot of clutter, but do all those tabs really need to take up so much space? Even worse, there are some sites you're likely to always keep open, like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and any other persistent destinations. It doesn't take long to fill up your browser, but with Chrome, you can shrink one or more tabs down to just their favicon, freeing up a ton of space in the process.</p> <p align="center"> <img src="" /></p> <p>To organize your tabs into tiny thumbnails, just right-click on it and select Pin Tab. It will then be whisked over to the left side of the browser identifiable by its favicon. </p> <hr /> <h2>Change the Number of Search Suggestions (or Disable Them Completely) </h2> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Whenever you type in Chrome's Omnibar, the browser 'suggests' sites that are similar to what it thinks you're typing, which is based partially on your search history. It's not hard to see how this could turn into an awkward situation if someone else is sitting next to you while you surf the Web. To disable Chrome's Search Suggestion feature, click on Tools&gt;Options. Bring up the Under the Hood tab and deselect the 'Use a suggestion service...' checkbox. </p> <p>On the other end of the spectrum, you may feel that Chrome doesn't serve up enough suggestions. There's no integrated way to change this, but you can take matters into your own hands using a startup switch (see the section about startup switches earlier in this guide). </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Find Chrome's startup icon on your desktop or taskbar, and then right-click and select Properties. Make sure the Shortcut tab is selected. In the target box, append <strong>-ominibox-popup-count=xx</strong>, replacing xx with the number of suggestions you want to appear. The final result should look something like this:</p> <p><strong>C:\Users\Paul\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\ -omnibox-popup-count=35</strong></p> <h2>Customize Chrome with these Five Awesome Add-Ons</h2> <p>We don't know why it took so long for Google to add official extensions support for Chrome, but now that they have, we couldn't be happier. Mozilla? Probably not so much. The lack of extensions is a major reason why many users just couldn't bring themselves to make the switch, but now that the door has been opened, expect a flood of add-ons, just like what happened with Firefox. And the coolest part about all this is you don't even need to restart Chrome for extensions to take effect - groovy! Here are some we just can't live without.</p> <p><strong>Chrome Gestures</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Better known as 'mouse gestures,' Chrome gestures is Chrome's equivalent, and it's just as awesome here as it is on any other browser. This should be on everyone's install list. </p> <p><a href="">Download Link</a></p> <p><strong>IE Tab</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>As much we like Chrome, there are still some webpages that will only work correctly in Internet Explorer. But rather than resort to loading up IE, this extension allows you to load the page with IE, but in a separate tab within Chrome. In other words, you're getting the best of worlds!</p> <p><a href="">Download Link</a></p> <p><strong>Tab Sync</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>Sometimes 5 o'clock rolls around way too early. Maybe you're waist deep in a super important project for work, or perhaps you were in the middle of an entertaining article, but it's time to go. One solution is to bookmark all of your open tabs, enable bookmark syncing, and then load them up one-by-one when you get home. Or you could install Tab Sync. Just as the name implies, this handy add-on syncs all of your open tabs. Just click the button and you're good to go.</p> <p><a href="">Download Link </a></p> <p><strong>The Camelizer</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>Shop more intelligently with the Camelizer add-on. Camelizer tracks product price changes and works a variety of popular e-tailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, Overstock, and a few others. It will tell you what the lowest price for a product was, how recently it was marked that low, and other helpful stats to make sure you're not overpaying. </p> <p><a href="">Download Link </a></p> <p><strong>Tab Menu</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>Extremely handy for anyone who often loads more than 10 tabs at a time, and the more tabs you have open, the more use you'll get out of this one. Easily perform functions like select, close, rearrange, find, and more, and do it with a convenient pull-down menu. </p> <p><a href="">Download Link</a></p> <hr /> <h2>Get Going with Greasemonkey</h2> <p>Move over Mozilla, your Firefox browser isn't the only one to support Greasemonkey anymore. As of February 1, 2010, so does Google Chrome. This is such a huge development, that we might someday look back and rank this as one of the most critical moments in Chrome's history. </p> <p>To give you a little background information, Greasemonkey started off as a Firefox extension. More than just another add-on, however, Greasemonkey makes it possible for users to install scripts and integrate on-the-fly Javascript changes to websites. Put more plainly, Greasemonkey gives users access to a ton of additional extensions, over 40,000 of which can be found on <a href=""></a>. Not all of them work correctly, but a good many do, and that number will only increase with time. </p> <p>There's no plug-in to install here, Greasemonkey works natively with the latest version of Chrome. Just click the above link and start experimenting. Here are a couple to get you started.</p> <p><strong>Facebook Purity</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>Hey, we love racking up trillions of dollars and wiping out our enemies in Mafia Wars just as much as the next virtual mafioso, but we could care less about <em>your </em>mafia. We also wouldn't be sad if an asteroid landied on your farm and decimated your crops, and while it might sound callous, we also have no interest in how you fared in whatever quiz you decided to participate in.</p> <p>We're not haters in general, we just hate the crap that floods Facebook. Luckily for us, we're not the only ones, and someone had the good sense to make Facebook Purity. This script does what your so-called friends should be doing - it removes all the quiz and application messages, letting you enjoy Facebook the way it was designed to be enjoyed before the whole MySpace crowd migrated over.</p> <p><a href="">Download Link </a></p> <p><strong>Ebay Hacks</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" /></p> <p>Attention Ebay shoppers, you need to install this script. Ebay has made more than a few changes to its Feedback system over the years, but one thing the online auction hasn't done is make it easy to see a user's negative or neutral remarks. The only way to do that is to scroll through someone's entire feedback profile, and when dealing with a PowerSeller, that can be pretty time consuming. It's also necessary, because do you really want to take a chance on a seller who has a history of selling counterfeit goods?</p> <p>Ebay Hacks adds a pair of tabs to Feedback profiles allowing you to quickly sort through all &quot;Complaints Received&quot; and &quot;Complaints Left.&quot; </p> <p><a href="">Download Link </a></p> <p>Want more? Be sure to check out our '<a href="/article/features/ultimate_greasemonkey_guide_google_chrome">11 Best Greasemonkey Scripts that Actually Work with Chrome</a>' article. </p> <h2>Get NoScript-Like Behavior in Chrome (and a Word about AdBlock)</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>It probably seems silly to talk about NoScript without mentioning AdBlock, so we we'll the give popular ad blocking service a shout out. And while we're at it, let us clear the air. In general, we don't condone running AdBlock, and with good reason. If all of our readers blocked the ads on our site, we wouldn't be able to exist, plain and simple. We also realize that there are some sites that make malicious use of ads, bombarding you with popups at every turn. That's also bunk. So our stance is this: If you must, go ahead and install AdBlock (it's now available for Chrome right <a href="">here</a>), but disable it for sites you trust and support, which we hope includes You can do so by installing the Browser Button for AdBlock extension (available <a href="">here</a>), and then clicking on the icon and selecting 'Don't run on this domain.' </p> <p>All rright, now that we've stepped down from our soapbox, let us turn our attention to NoScript. NoScript is somewhat of a different beast as it provides an extra layer of protection against potentially malicious (or just annoying) JavaScript code. It's become a favorite among Firefox users, but isn't available on Chrome.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>That's the bad news. The good news is you can still get NoScript-like behavior in Chrome, though you'll have to run the developer build (currently It also isn't as slick, but it works. After you've installed the developer build (download it <a href="">here</a>) and restarted your browser, go to Tools&gt;Options and load up the 'Under the Hood' tab. Right under Privacy, click the Content settings... button. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Head over to the JavaScript tab and click the 'Do not allow any site to run JavaScript' radio button. This will block all JavaScript from executing, but if there are certain sites you want to allow, mash the Exceptions... button and manually enter them in. Alternately, you can allow JavaScript to run and set up a blacklist but typing in sites and selecting 'Disable' from the pull-down menu. </p> <p>While you're in there, you can also control images, plug-ins, pop-ups, and cookies by diving into each one's tab and adjusting the settings.</p> <h2>Compare Sites with Split Page View</h2> <p>Tabbed browsing is the greatest thing since, well, tabbed browsing, but if you want to view two websites at the same time, you need to open another window. Or you can rapid-fire switch between tabs. Neither of these is ideal.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>We don't know why split-screen browsing hasn't yet been adopted by every major browser maker, especially with widescreen monitors now commonplace. But while browser makers drag their feet, you can take matters into your own hands by bookmarking <a href=""></a>. This URL splits your browser in half with separate URL bars. It's not a perfect solution -- some sites, like Newegg, hijack the entire screen -- but until browser makers get on the ball, it's the best we've got. </p> <h2>Stuff Chrome in Your Pocket</h2> <p>There are three main ways to take Chrome with you:</p> <p>1. Build a LAN box</p> <p>2. Buy a notebook/netbook</p> <p>3. <a href="">Download Chrome Portable</a></p> <p>Door number 3 is the only one that will fit in your pocket, at least without looking silly. It doesn't take much room on your USB key either, consuming about 35MB.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" /> </p> <p>Just click the link above to download and 'install' the app. This really just unpacks the files, and you can choose to do this to your desktop and then move the folder over to your USB key, or unpack directly to your thumb drive. Once you're finished, just fire up Chrome Portable and start browsing! </p> chrome essentials features Google guide how-tos Software Software How-Tos tweaks web browsers Features Wed, 17 Feb 2010 02:00:00 +0000 Paul Lilly 10945 at 12 Essential Tips to Using XBMC as the Perfect Media Hub <!--paging_filter--><table border="0" align="right"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"> digg_url = ''; </script><script src="" type="text/javascript"></script></td> </tr> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"> tweetmeme_url = ''; </script><script type="text/javascript" src=""></script></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>Micro-management just isn't Microsoft's thing. Why do we say that? It's because the folks from Redmond are regular Babe Ruths when it comes to coding an OS and knocked the ball out of the park with Windows 7. But when it comes to integrated apps -- all those things we would expect Microsoft to excel at -- the software giant is more like Casey at the bat and we're all just a bunch of Mudville suckers wondering how Microsoft manages to whiff it at the easy pitches. Internet Explorer? Most of us are rocking Firefox or Chrome. And while we don't want to be too hard on Windows Media Player, there are certainly better media frontends out there.</p> <p>One of them is XBMC, an open-source project formerly known as Xbox Media Center. XBMC was originally developed for the first Xbox console, and through the years, it has evolved as a fully fledged, cross-platform media hub with a rabid following and plenty of user-created plugins and scripts. It's also given birth to more familiar projects like Boxee, Voddler, and others, all of which initially borrowed from XBMC's source code.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="230" /> </p> <p>If you've never played with XBMC, it's time for a test drive. To help you kick the tires, we've assembled 12 terrific tips and tricks so you can spend more time cruising the media byways and less time fumbling with the controls. </p> <p>Some highlights: </p> <h3><a href="/article/features/xbmc?page=0%2C1">Add Your Video Library (and Tap Into an External Drive) </a></h3> <h3><a href="/article/features/xbmc?page=0%2C2">Get More Free Content with Plugins</a></h3> <h3><a href="/article/features/xbmc?page=0%2C3">Watch Hulu (It's Easier than You Think)</a></h3> <h3><a href="/article/features/xbmc?page=0%2C4">Liven Things Up by Changing Skins</a></h3> <h3><a href="/article/features/xbmc?page=0%2C5">Create Video Preview Thumbnails</a></h3> <h3><a href="/article/features/xbmc?page=0%2C6">Watch Streaming Content from TVersity </a></h3> <h3><a href="/article/features/xbmc?page=0%2C7">Quick Tips and Troubleshooting</a></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Try Before You Commit - Install XBMC Live to a USB Stick</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="353" /></p> <p>Remember when optical drives hadn't been invented yet, at least not like the kind we use in PCs today? Nostalgic as we are, we have no desire of returning to those to simpler times in tech, yet ditching an optical drive is the first thing low- power PC makers do. We're talking about netbooks and, as it applies here, nettops.</p> <p>Because of their low power requirements and budget friendly price tags, nettops have become extremely popular as home theater accessories, especially those rocking HD capabilities with Nvidia's Ion platform. But not all of them come with an optical drive, and while that might not always be a big deal, in this case, it means you can't test out XBMC with an XBMC Live CD before committing to a full blown installation. Or does it?</p> <p>As long as your nettop has a free USB port -- and the BIOS supports booting from USB -- you're in business. All you need to do is install XBMC Live to a thumb stick, and here's how you do it. </p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u17625/usbkey_415.jpg" width="415" height="272" /></p> <p>Because of the multi-platform support, there are several versions of XBMC available. The one we're after is the Live installation, which is about a 490MB download, and you can grab it <a href="">here</a> (the furthest option to the right). When it finishes downloading, extract the xbmc.iso file to your desktop. </p> <p>This is the image for the XBMC Live installer, which you'd normally burn to a CD or DVD, plop in your optical drive, and call it a day. Unfortunately, that won't do you any good if the system you're trying to run it on doesn't have an optical drive, so we need to get this ISO burned to a USB stick that's at least 1GB. To do that, we're going to enlist the help of UNetbootin, a free utility that installs Linux distros to USB drives</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="292" /></p> <p>Download UNetbootin from <a href="">here</a> and open up the executable. You'll notice that there are several Linux distributions to choose from the pull-down menu, but none of them are what we're after. Instead, click on the Diskimage radio button and make sure that ISO is selected from the associated pull- down menu. In the blank field directly to the right, click the button and navigate to the XBMC .iso file you downloaded and extracted earlier (it should be named something like xbmc-9.11-life-repack.iso). </p> <p>Finally, fill out the pull-down menus below, selecting 'USB' for Type, and make sure the drive letter is correct (if you're unsure, open up My Computer). When everything looks good, press OK and UNetbootin will do the rest. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="305" /></p> <p>You now have a bootable USB stick with XBMC Live installed, but before you can use it, you need to make sure that the system you're trying to boot from is configured to boot from a USB drive. Go into the BIOS by pressing the DEL key during POST (if that doesn't work, consult your motherboard manual for the correct key). Poke around until you find the boot priority settings and make sure the USB drive is listed first. Once again, if you can't find it, consult your motherboard manual, or reference our <a href="/article/features/ultimate_bios_guide_every_bios_setting_revealed">Ultimate BIOS Guide</a> for additional help. After you set the Boot Priority, press F10 to save the changes and exit. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="266" /></p> <p>Now you're good to go! Just plug in your USB key and reset your computer. When XBMC's menu comes up, select the Default option, or do nothing and it will load on its own in a few seconds. If you run into trouble for some reason, reboot, and this time select the manufacturer of your videocard when prompted (Nvidia, ATI/AMD, or Intel). </p> <hr /> <h2>Add Your Video Library (and Tap Into an External Drive) </h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>Whether you've gone with a full-blown installation on your nettop or have chosen to run XBMC on top of Windows, either for watching on your PC or hooking to your TV via that groovy HDMI port, the first thing you're going to want to do is add your video collection. XBMC's menu is pretty logically laid out, so trust your hunch and begin by navigating to the Video menu.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>Most nettops don't come with a very big hard drive, some as little as 160GB. If you opted for an SSD instead of a traditional hard drive, you might even have less space to play with. And even though hard drives are dirt cheap these days, adding another drive to your system may not be an option. If that's the case, connecting an external unit is probably your best bet, and luckily, XBMC has no trouble detecting and reading from external drives connected via a USB port. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>If you have an external drive hooked up, this is where you'll find it. Just like on the removable drive, you can browse its contents and play videos. Note that this also works with USB thumb drives, so it's a piece of cake to tote your flicks around and fire them up with little fuss.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>To configure XBMC to recognize your video library, we need to back up a step and click on Add Source. You can add several different sources, but for now, we just want to configure one. Click on Browse to see a list of sources XBMC recognizes. Any hard drives you have attached should be recognized, as well as the ability to add UPnP devices, sift through your home network, and other odds and ends.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p> Navigate just as you would on Windows, clicking through your hard drive and folders. When you get to where your videos are stored, press OK and name the source when prompted. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>You should now see your new source in the main menu. If you ever need to change the name, just right-click and choose Edit Source. You can also add a thumbnail image by right-clicking, among a few other self- explanatory options.</p> <h2>Organize Movies into Separate Folders (without Manually Creating New Folders) </h2> <p>Do you have a Videos folder on your hard drive with dozens, maybe even hundreds of videos nestled inside? It seemed like a good idea at the time -- after all, what's the use in creating separate folders for each individual movie? That just means more clicking.</p> <p>When it comes to organizing everything through XMBC, however, you may realize that you want all your movies in their own folder, even though you didn't before. The problem, though, is that the more movies you have, the longer it's going to take to do this. That is, unless you enlist the help of FoldMonkey. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="341" /></p> <p>FoldMonkey will do the grunt work for you and create new folders so you don't have to. Grab FoldMonkey from <a href="">here</a>, install it, and then fire up the application. In the Monitor Folder field, select the folders with all of videos. Next, scroll down and check Archive File. This will bring up a few more options. Check Create Folder. In the second pull-down menu, select 'Move File To The Above Created Folder.' Finally, click 'Scan Once Only' and sit back while FoldMonkey does its thing!</p> <hr /> <h2>Get More Free Content with Plugins</h2> <p>One reason we like XBMC so much is because it offers an almost endless array of functionality. Not by default, mind you, but through the use of third-party plugins, which is common to a lot of open-source projects. In this case, there are plugins available that will add streaming NBA content to the mix, stream and download content from, add radio stations, launch desktop applications (essential for getting Hulu to work, which we cover next), integrate Flickr, and a whole lot more. And thanks to an active community of XBMC users, new ones are being added all the time. </p> <p><strong>Manual Method </strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="396" height="481" /></p> <p>The latest release of XBMC supports five different categories of plugins: Music, Pictures, Programs, Video, and Weather. These are all located in XBMC's plugins directory, but to find them, you first need to make sure you're able to view hidden files and folders. </p> <ol> <li>Open up My Computer</li> <li>Press the Alt key </li> <li>Navigate to Tools&gt;Folder Options</li> <li>Select the View tab</li> <li>Check the 'Show hidden files, folders, and drives' radio button</li> </ol> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="290" /></p> <p>Now that you can view hidden system files, navigate to <strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\plugins</strong>. You should see all five categories mentioned above. When you download a plugin, it will probably come in a ZIP archive. The first step to installing it is to extract the contents to the appropriate folder in the plugins directory. For example, if you're installing a video plugin, like VideoMonkey, you extract the contents to <strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\plugins\Video</strong>. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>All installed, right? Not just yet--we still need to configure XBMC to integrate the plugin into its menu. Open up XBMC and navigate to Videos (or whichever category plugin you're trying to install). At this point, you might be tempted to click on 'Video plugins,' but that folder's for plugins that are already installed. Instead, click on Add Source&gt;Browse and scroll down to where it says Video plugins. Inside this folder you should see all the plugins that are in the above directory, including the one you just moved. Click on the one you're trying to install and click Ok (and then one more time on the next menu). That's it! You'll now find the plugin by navigating to Videos&gt;Video Plugins from within XBMC's interface. </p> <p><strong>Automatic Install</strong></p> <p>In addition to the manual method of installing plugins, you can also use XBMC's built-in SVN Repo Installer or the third party XBMC Zone Installer. The latter is pretty popular in the development community and there are some plugins that require it, so it's a pretty good idea to have this on hand.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="260" /></p> <p>To start with, we need to resort back to the manual method to install XBMC Zone Installer. Grab the plugin here and extra the contents to <strong>C:\users\[USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\plugins\programs</strong>. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="294" /></p> <p>There's really nothing more you need to do, at least in terms of configuring the installers to work with XBMC. You'll find them both by opening up XMBC and navigating to Programs&gt;Program Plugins.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>XBMC is a bit slicker than SVN because everything is pretty much clearly labeled. Click on XMBC Zone Installer, for example, and you'll be presented with three categories: Latest Add-ons, Plugins, and Scripts. Each of these contains different available third-party goodies, and sometimes they'll be broken down into even more categories, like music, movies, and so forth. Navigate through the menus to see what's available, and to install one of the plugins, just click it and follow the prompts. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="171" /></p> <p>The SVN Installer works in exactly the same way. Just click through the menus, wait for the directories to be loaded (like in the pic above), and click on a plugin to install it. Be sure to check the Skins folder if you want to change up the look of XBMC! </p> <p><strong>Plugin Resources</strong></p> <p>Plugins for XBMC are scattered all over the net, but there are a handful of go-to sites you should keep in your bookmarks. These include:<a href=""></a></p> <ul> <li><a href=""> XBMC Zone</a></li> <li><a href="">XBMC Forum Thread</a> (keeps a running log of working and non-working plugins) </li> <li><a href="">XBMC Add-ons</a> (not much to choose from, but does include a couple of plugins for Macs)</li> </ul> <hr /> <h2>Watch Hulu (It's Easier than You Think) </h2> <p>We're not going to get into the politics of streaming video services, and especially the on-again-off-again relationship Hulu has had with third party programs, but suffice to say, Hulu doesn't work with XBMC. You may have even gotten your hopes up when you saw that there exists a Hulu plugin, but it's a no-go on the current version of XBMC (there's a special version of XBMC you can install where it supposedly works, but we have a better way).</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="396" height="481" /></p> <p>The workaround here isn't glamorous, but it's functional, and at the end of the day, that's all we're really after. First, download and install Hulu Desktop, which you can swipe from Hulu Labs <a href="">here</a>. Once installed, the executable gets nestled away hidden from view and far from the Program Files folder most applications install to. Our first challenge is to move the Hulu Desktop launcher to the desktop. To do that, make sure you're able to see hidden files and folders:</p> <ol> <li>Open up My Computer</li> <li>Press the Alt key </li> <li>Navigate to Tools&gt;Folder Options</li> <li>Select the View tab</li> <li>Check the 'Show hidden files, folders, and drives' radio button</li> </ol> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="269" /></p> <p>Now that we've enabled viewing hidden files and folders, navigate to<strong>: C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Local\HuluDesktop</strong>. In that directory, you'll see the program's launcher, HuluDesktop.exe. Move, don't copy, this file over to your desktop.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="290" /></p> <p>Next we need to turn our attention to XBMC, and specifically, to installing plugins. The one we're after is called Launcher, and you can download it from <a href="">here</a>. Open up the ZIP file you just downloaded and extract the Launcher plugin (which is a folder) to <strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData \Roaming\XBMC\plugins\video</strong>. If you're in the right directory, you'll see another plugin called Apple Movie Trailers Lite. You don't have to do this next step, but if you want to make the plugin a little easier to find in XBMC, rename it Hulu Launcher.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>With the heavy lifting out of the way, it's time to fire up XBMC and test out our plugin. Navigate to Videos.Video Plugins, and in there, you should see an entry titled either Launcher, or Hulu Launcher, depending on whether or not you renamed it above.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>Click on the Launcher and select the Standalone (normal PC executable) option. You'll now need to navigate to the HuluDesktop executable, and the reason we moved this to the Desktop earlier is because XBMC is unable to poke around Windows' hidden folders. So, assuming you followed the above steps correctly, direct XBMC to C:\Users\[USERNAME]\Desktop \HuluDesktop.exe and press OK. </p> <p>You'll be asked to enter in any arguments, which you don't need to worry about, and a name (HuluDesktop, or something similar). </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>In your best Emeril impression, say 'BAM!,' because you just cooked up a delectable workaround for watching Hulu through XBMC. You can browse through flicks just like you normally would, and fullscreen viewing also works. </p> <hr /> <h2>Liven Things Up by Changing Skins</h2> <p>Changing up the look, feel, and even functionality of XBMC is as easy as swapping skins, and just like installing plugins, there are two ways to do this.</p> <p><strong>Manual Method</strong></p> <p>To save you time from messing around with busted skins or ones that may have been compatible with an older version of XBMC but no longer work with the current version, take a peek at XBMC's running list of supported skins, which you can find <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="260" /></p> <p>When you find a skin you want to try out, download it and extract the contents (which should be a folder full of files) into <strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\skin</strong>.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>To try out one of your new skins, open up XBMC and navigate to System&gt;Appearance&gt;Skin. Click the up or down arrow next to Skin to scroll through the list of available ones and then double-click to change it up on the fly. If you don't like the new look, just change it back (default skin is Confluence). </p> <p><strong>Automatic Install</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="254" /></p> <p>Don't feel like fussing with downloads and hidden system files? No problem, just use XBMC's SVN Revo Installer to automatically install skins. You'll find this option by opening up XBMC and navigating to Programs&gt;Program Plugins&gt;SVN Repo Installer&gt;xbmc-xbox-skins. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>The first time you click this option, XBMC will download a list of available skins. Let it finish, and then click through to the Skins folder. You'll see a bunch of different ones to choose from--just click whichever one catches your eye and follow the prompts to install. When it's finished installing (and this can take awhile, depending on the speed of the server from which it's downloading from), try it on by going to System&gt;Appearance&gt;Skin. </p> <h2>Set up a Universal Remote <br /></h2> <p>There's nothing wrong with using a mouse and keyboard to navigate through XBMC, especially with all the care that's been given to making the user interface so intuitive. But for those you trying to fully integrate an XBMC box into your living room setup, using a universal remote is the only way to go.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="301" /></p> <p>Of course, it all starts with getting your PC and remote to communicate with each other, and for that, you're going to need some sort of receiver, like the USB-UIRT. Because this could be separate guide in and of itself, we're going to assume you either already have the necessary hardware and setup, or know what you need to invest in. Our focus is going to be on integrating a universal remote with XBMC.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="300" /></p> <p>To make life easier (and to make this hack possible), you'll need to create a special file that will allow you to configure advanced settings. This will make sense in a moment, but for now, navigate to <strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\userdata</strong>. Create a new text file and name it <strong>advancedsettings.xml</strong> (be sure to include the .xml file extension, not .txt). Edit the file and type:</p> <p><strong>&lt;displayremotecodes&gt;true&lt;/displayremotecodes&gt;</strong></p> <p>Once you restart XBMC, what this little trick does is tell the media app to display a code on the screen whenever you press a button on your remote. These codes will come in super handy when it comes time to map your universal remote's buttons, but first, start mashing buttons and write down the corresponding codes. </p> <p>Before we can map these codes to specific functions, we need to know what XBMC is capable of doing, and what the corresponding codes are. To find a list of these, see <a href="">here</a>. You'll notice, for example, that the code to play a DVD is <strong>PlayDVD</strong>, and to take a screenshot, the code is <strong>TakeScreenshot</strong>. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="268" /></p> <p>Ready to start configuring your remote? Great! Head over to wherever you installed XBMC on your hard drive and dig down to the system&gt;keymaps folder. On 64-bit Windows 7, for example, the default location is <strong>C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\sytem\keymaps</strong>. Right-click the file remote.xml and select Copy. Now navigate to <strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\userdata\keymaps</strong>. Right-click anywhere in the folder and select Paste. Any duplicate files in this folder will take precedence over the original. We could have just moved the original remote.xml to begin with, but this way, we retain an original backup in case something goes wrong. </p> <p>Edit the remote.xml you just pasted (right-click, Edit) and scroll down to where it says:</p> <p><strong>&lt;keymap&gt;<br />&lt;global&gt;<br />&lt;remote&gt;</strong></p> <p>It probably won't be laid out as neatly as that, but it doesn't matter, so long as it's in order. What we need to do is insert code right above where it says &lt;remote&gt; so that it looks like this:</p> <p><strong>&lt;keymap&gt;<br />&lt;global&gt;<br />&lt;universalremote&gt;<br />&lt;obc##&gt;Command&lt;/obc##&gt;<br />&lt;obc##&gt;Command2&lt;/obc##&gt;<br />&lt;obc##&gt;Command3&lt;/obc##&gt;<br />&lt;/universalremote&gt;</strong></p> <p>Using the above code structure, what you're going to do is replace ## with the number code you wrote down earlier, followed by a command code from the link above. So let's say pressing a button on your remote spits back the code 27, and you want to use that button to play a DVD. Here's what it would look like:</p> <p><strong>&lt;keymap&gt;<br /> &lt;global&gt;<br /> &lt;universalremote&gt;<br /> &lt;obc27&gt;PlayDVD&lt;/obc27&gt;<br /> &lt;/universalremote&gt;</strong></p> <p>Add as many codes as you want following the same structure as above. When you're finished, save your changes and restart XBMC.</p> <p><strong>For Harmony One Owners</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="236" /></p> <p>If you're rocking a Harmony One universal remote, you might as well take a little time to dress up the touchscreen. To do that, use the included Logitech software and click on Customize Buttons for the Xbox Media Center, and then select the Advanced Buttons tab. The goal here is to label everything based on the actions they perform. Note that the device column lists which device the commands are being sent to. The trick here is that the Harmony contains some unique codes, and credit goes to <a href=""> forum member katz</a> for listing these out (you'll find them <a href="">here</a>). Reference these codes to map your remote with XBMC's own codes and you're golden! </p> <hr /> <h2>Create Video Preview Thumbnails</h2> <p>The more videos you accumulate, the harder it can be to keep track of them. The solution? Create thumbnail images for each one so you know what you're dealing with at a glance.</p> <p>As a prerequisite for this to work, you'll need to download FFmpeg from <a href="">here</a>. Extract all three files to <strong>C:\Windows\System32</strong> if you're running a 32-bit version of Windows, or <strong>C:\Windows\SysWOW64</strong> if you're rocking a 64-bit version.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="176" /></p> <p>Once you've done that, open up a command prompt by clicking the Start menu, type CMD, and press enter. Navigate to the directory where your videos are located. Since ours are located on our D: drive under Videos, we would type:</p> <p><strong>D:</strong><br /><strong>cd videos</strong></p> <p>Then type the following:</p> <p><strong>for /r %i in (*.avi) do ffmpeg -i &quot;%i&quot; -f mjpeg -t 0.001 -ss 5 -y &quot;%~di%~pi%~ni.tbn&quot;</strong></p> <p>What the above code will do is create thumbnail previews five seconds into each AVI video file. However, you can replace (*.avi) with a different video format, such as MP4 or whatever type of videos you might have. You can also change how long into the video a thumbnail image is pulled. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>Restart XBMC and browse your videos, now with preview thumbnails! </p> <h2>Use an Xbox Controller Natively</h2> <p>Starting with the Xbox 360, we no longer have to fiddle with USB adapter cables or buying a separate gamepad for our PC. Because Microsoft integrated a standard USB connector, it's easy enough to just plug and play, which comes in handy when you're playing a PC game ill-suited for the mouse/keyboard combo. It also comes in handy for manipulating XBMC, but getting the controller to work natively takes a bit of legwork. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="319" /></p> <p>If you haven't already, install XBCD, which you can grab from <a href="">here</a>. Next, navigate to <strong>C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\system\keymaps</strong>. Copy the joystick.Microsoft.Xbox.Controller.S.xml file (right-click, Copy) to <strong>C:\Users[USERNAME]\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\userdata\keymaps </strong>(right-click, Paste).</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="361" height="191" /></p> <p>Edit the file you just pasted (right-click, Edit) and click Edit&gt;Replace..., or press CTRL+H. What we want to do is replace all the instances of a controller we're not using, with one that we are. In the top field, type <strong>&lt;altname&gt;Mad Catz MicroCON&lt;/altname&gt;</strong> and in the bottom field type <strong>&lt;altname&gt;XBCD Xbox 360 Controller&lt;/altname&gt;</strong>. When it finishes, be sure to the changes.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="290" /></p> <p>The last thing we need to do is load up a special profile in XBCD. Normally we'd have to create our own, but XBMC forum member XIYL did the legwork already. You can download his custom XGI file <a href="">here </a>(right-click, Save link as...). Open up XBCD and load the XGI file. Once you're finished, restart XBMC and use your Xbox 360 controller with any key emulation.</p> <hr /> <h2>Configure TVersity to Work with XBMC</h2> <p>We know what you're thinking--why in the world would we want to run TVersity if we're already running XBMC? Or you're maybe you're wondering, 'what the frak is TVersity, anyway?' In the case of the latter, TVersity is essentially a pretty awesome media streaming software package, which we covered in a previous how-to guide (see <a href="/article/streaming">here</a>). To answer the former question, TVersity remains a great way to receive streaming online content, and it also comes with a really good transcoder. Granted, its usefulness is somewhat diminished if you've made the switch to XBMC, but if you want to use them both, it's fairly easy to set up.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="246" /></p> <p>Download and install the latest version of TVersity (currently version 1.7.4 Beta), which is made available <a href="">here</a>. Fire it up and head over the Library tab to add or edit any online feeds. You'll notice that there are several already included, such as YouTube, Flickr, and others. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="266" /></p> <p>When you're finished, head on over to the Settings tab. Check to make sure that 'Automatically start sharing the media when the computer starts' is enabled (this should be enabled by default). Now head down to the Home Network section and change the Port to 3689. Save your settings.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="215" /></p> <p>Now load up XBMC and bring up Videos. Click on Add Source&gt;Browse and scroll down to UPnP Devices. When you click on this, you should see TVersity listed. Select it, press OK. You'll still need to update any feeds through TVersity's frontend, but once you do, you'll be able to scroll through and view them from within XBMC. </p> <h2>Set up SFTP for Transferring Files to XBMC Live</h2> <p>For a dedicated media box, it's not a bad idea to go with a full blow Live install rather than running XBMC on top of Windows. If nothing else, it will save you the cost of a Windows license. But doing so also presents a challenge--how do you transfer files to an XBMC Live box?</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="336" /></p> <p>The answer lies in SFTP. Any SFTP client will do, though we recommend the free FileZilla package, which you can download from <a href="">here</a>. Open up FileZilla and click on File&gt;Site Manager, or press CTRL+S. Mash the New Site button and name it something like XBMC Live. Here are the settings you'll need to use:</p> <ul> <li>Host: IP address of your XBMC Live box (you can find this under Network Settings in XBMC)</li> <li>Port: 22</li> <li>Servertype: SFTP</li> <li>Logontype: Normal</li> <li>User: xbmc</li> <li>Password: xbmc </li> </ul> <p>The username and password listed above are the default options. If you set either/both to something different when installing and configuring XBMC Live, then use those credentials instead.<br /> <hr /> <h2>Quick Tips and Troubleshooting </h2> </p><p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="230" /></p> <p><strong>MTU Settings for Windows 7 SMB Shares</strong></p> <p>Some users have reported problems with SMB Shares for XBMC after upgrading to Windows 7, such as dropped connections, no connection at all, and other quirks. If you're running into these or similar issues, you're not alone, though it may take some trial and error to resolve.</p> <p> forum member Aikar has posted MTU settings that he claims got everything working again (see <a href="">here</a>). We didn't run into issues ourselves so there's no way for us to know if his method helps, but it's worth a shot if you're at the end of your rope. Also take note of the last post on page 1, which seems to have also worked for at least one other forum member in that thread. </p> <p><strong>CPU Usage Unusually High</strong></p> <p>If you're still chugging along on a Pentium III or AMD Barton chip, it's high time for an upgrade. But if you're running a relatively modern CPU and notice that just navigating menus results in ultra-high processor cycles, then there's a problem, albeit a seemingly common one. The verdict is still out on what does and doesn't work, and what causes the issue in the first place, but one thing that has worked for many is to disable VSync. You can do this in Windows and in XBMC, but try one at a time before disabling both. </p> <p>Also check to make sure that all your drivers are up to date, including GPU and chipset, and that you're running the latest version of DirectX. </p> <p><strong>No Video - Only a Black or White Screen</strong></p> <p>There are two main culprits that could result in a black or white screen instead of video playback. The first is if you're running an older videocard that doesn't support Pixel Shader 2.0 or higher. If this is the case, then you're &quot;out of luck,&quot; as XBMC's developers put it. </p> <p>If your videocard meets the minimum Pixel Shader requirement, then you might be missing the compiler XBMC needs. Update/reinstall DirectX and see if that resolves the problem. </p> <p><strong>Control XBMC with Your Android Device</strong></p> <p>With Google's Android platform catching fire as of late, there's a good chance you either already own an Android device, or plan on getting one soon. That means you'll be able to control your XBMC media center with your smartphone, so long as you install XBMC Remote (<a href="">download link</a>). This handy app turns your device into a remote control with the look of the Xbox DVD dongle and comes with a ton of features, including the ability to display cover art (when available), sort through your movie library by title, actors, or genre, manage multiple XBMC instances, and a whole lot more. </p> <p><strong>XBMC Keeps Freezing</strong></p> <p>On occasion, XBMC seems to go into a coma and becomes completely unresponsive when trying to open up a movie or music file. We've run into this ourselves, but if it happens frequently, it might be indicative of a corrupt database. To fix the problem, navigate to <strong>C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\userdata\Database</strong> and delete all the files in this directory, but not the folders. </p> features guides how-tos Hulu media movies Software Software How-Tos video playback xbmc Features Fri, 29 Jan 2010 16:00:00 +0000 Paul Lilly 10583 at Complete Guide to Creating and Editing PDFs for Free <!--paging_filter--><p>You know Adobe's portable document format: PDF. It's everywhere, from downloadable documentation for a motherboard you need to tweak to press releases from the assemblyman from Lower Someplace, PDFs rule. Why? It's not hard to understand:</p> <ul> <li>PDF files are supported by computers and mobile devices, including smartphones; comparable formats such as Microsoft's XPS don't enjoy nearly as wide a level of support</li> <li>PDF files are cross-platform, enabling you to create a PDF on a PC and read it on any other device with PDF support</li> <li>PDF files can be secured in varying ways, including view-only and view and print/no edit, and so on</li> <li>PDF files can support hyperlinks, images, and other rich media features</li> <li>PDF documents can be optimized for web display, eBook readers, PC printing, and high-resolution professional printing</li> </ul> <p>Add up these reasons, and it's easy to see why PDF make sense if you need to distribute a document that can be read everywhere.</p> <p>Although Adobe sets the standards for PDF files with its Acrobat PDF creation and Reader PDF display software, Adobe isn't the only game in town when it comes to PDF creation. In this article, you'll discover if your system is already ready to spit out a PDF on demand, how to add PDF output to your system, and how to track down free tools that enable you to perform some PDF editing.</p> <h2>Check the File Menu for PDF Output Options</h2> <p>Depending upon the software included on your system, you might already have a PDF creation program installed. To find out, open the File menu. If you see an option such as Publish to PDF or Export to PDF, your application includes a built-in PDF creation feature. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="233" height="442" /></p> <p>Core WordPerfect Suite X4 and Open Office 3.1 are two current office suites that include PDF output in the File menu. To add PDF output to Microsoft Office 2007, download the free <a href=";displaylang=en">Microsoft Save As PDF plugin</a>.</p> <p>If you don't use applications that include PDF output, you can add PDF output by installing a PDF creation program that runs as a virtual printer driver. These programs install an option in the Print menu, so you can use File, Print to create a PDF file. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="524" height="396" /></p> <h2>PDF Settings 101</h2> <p>Depending upon the PDF creation solution you use, you have varying amounts of control over the size, quality, and features in the completed PDF file. Some PDF creators provide a selection of PDF styles that optimize output for online, print, or other uses.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="366" height="120" /></p> <p>Some creators also provide additional options through a tabbed interface that appears during the creation process, or might add PDF settings to the Advanced Options portion of the PDF virtual printer's properties sheet. Some of these options include:</p> <h3>Compatibility</h3> <p>Various versions of the PDF standard have been created <a href="">over time</a>, each adding additional capabilities. Although Adobe now supports PDF versions <a href="">up to 1.7</a> (used in Acrobat/Reader 9.x), most freeware PDF creators output PDF version 1.5 (compatible with Acrobat 6.0 and above) and might offer compatibility with older versions. </p> <h3>Style</h3> <p>While you can individually adjust settings for resolution, font embedding, graphics quality, and other options that can influence file size, a PDF style option provides a quick way to select from optimizations for commercial printing, online viewing only, printing and viewing, and options designed for archiving <a href="">(PDF/A)</a>.</p> <h3>Editable Text – or Not</h3> <p>By default, text in a PDF file remains editable if you create the PDF file from a word-processing or other text-based document. However, if you used non-standard fonts in the original document and cannot embed the fonts in the PDF, you might need to select the option to export all text as curves. Doing so enables the document to look just like the original even if the fonts are not available on the target system, but essentially converts the PDF file into an image file.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="395" height="280" /></p> <h3>Compression</h3> <p>By adjusting the level of bitmap compression or by selecting different styles (which also affects bitmap compression), you can greatly affect the size of the final document. However, there's no free lunch. Note the huge difference in image quality between the default (view/print) and the eBook versions of the file.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="400" height="232" /></p> <h3>Color Model</h3> <p>The default color model is RGB, which matches the way that displays work with color. However, if you are creating a PDF file for printing, you should choose CMYK if your PDF creator allows this option.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="310" height="128" /></p> <h3>Security</h3> <p>Some PDF creators provide options for password-protection of the PDF file, or can restrict the user's ability to print or edit the file.</p> <h3>Hyperlinking, Transition, and Presentation</h3> <p>Most PDF creators are designed primarily to create PDF files suitable for viewing or printing. However, PDF files can also include hyperlinks, transitions, and control over the user interface. PDF creators that support these features, such as the Export to PDF option in OpenOffice 3.1, will also prompt you for settings that control how the document will first look when opened, whether users can interact with the PDF file or just view it, whether hyperlinks in the document will function,  and others.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="383" height="228" /> </p> <hr /> <h2>Adding PDF Output to Your System with Freeware</h2> <p>For this article, we tested three freeware PDF creators and compared their results to the Export to PDF feature in OpenOffice 3.1. For testing, I created two one-page documents, both of which included a large bitmap. One was stored as a rich text format (RTF) file, and the other was stored as a Microsoft Word 97-2003 file.</p> <h3><a href="">CutePDFWriter </a></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="379" height="387" /></p> <p>CutePDF is a small download (about 3.7MB), but when you install it, there's a catch – you must also install a free PS2PDF converter such as Ghostscript (the installer provides a link). That's just the first limitation in CutePDF. If you're looking for control over your PDF output quality, CutePDF also falls short. CutePDF offers no option to select PDF version, compression levels, security, styles, or other common PDF settings, but it does include a resolution setting. Its Advanced Option menu is primarily designed to configure the Ghostscript Postscript-compatible driver it uses for output. CutePDF produces a good-looking PDF file that was also the largest file of the four programs selected, and when you save your PDF file, it includes a plug for a more powerful paid version. </p> <h3><a href="">doPDF </a></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="400" height="480" /></p> <p>DoPDF is a freebie from novaPDF. DoPDF offers more control over the output PDF file than CutePDF, including page size and the option to embed fonts. However, like CutePDFWriter, doPDF does not support PDF version, compression levels, security, or styles, and includes a plug for a more powerful paid version during the creation process. DoPDF created a PDF that was one-third the size of CuteFTPWriter with identical image quality. </p> <h3><a href="">Bullzip Printer </a></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="364" height="420" /></p> <p>Bullzip Printer, despite the name, is the most powerful of the three virtual PDF printer drivers in this comparison. You can control most PDF settings through the Advanced Options dialog of the Bullzip PDF Printer driver.</p> <p>You can also save documents in most popular bitmap formats as well as PDF. It supports PDF version settings, initial zoom level, quality settings, watermarks, passwords, and can also append and merge PDF files. It provides the most features of any of the freeware PDF writers in this roundup, and it produced the smallest file of the three.</p> <h3>Bullzip Versus OpenOffice 3.1</h3> <p>OpenOffice 3.1's Export to PDF lacks Bullzip's ability to select the PDF version (although it can create a DF/A-1a file suitable for document archiving), but it can create PDF forms, provides plenty of control over how a PDF document will display, and maintains hyperlinks in the document. When creating a one-page PDF file with a large bitmap and hyperlinks, Bullzip lost the hyperlinks, while OpenOffice 3.1 preserved them. </p> <p>Bullzip's output file was one-fifth the size of OpenOffice 3.1's, making it a better choice for print or web display, but if you need to create an interactive or self-playing PDF file, OpenOffice 3.1's a better choice.</p> <hr /> <h2>Editing PDF Files using Web Apps </h2> <p>You can try out lots of PDF editors for free, but sooner or later it's time to pay up or clean off. If you only need occasional PDF editing, consider a couple of free online services:</p> <p><strong><a href="">PDFescape</a></strong>: Includes touchup, merge, form, and markup capabilities. Registration is not required, but allows you to store edited files online. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="400" height="367" /></p> <p><a href=""><strong>PDFHammer</strong></a>: Includes security, metadata, page deletion and reordering, and file combining.</p> <h3>Extracting Photos for Free</h3> <p>Want to pull images from a PDF file? Download the freeware <a href="">Some PDF Images Extract</a> and you can pull JPEG images from PDF files. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="400" height="383" /></p> <p>A-PDF offers a trial version of its <a href="">A-PDF Image Extractor</a>. Check out the website to see how you can get a free license.</p> <h3>Conclusion</h3> <p>Before you create a PDF, decide how you want to use it. The way you create it has a lot of impact on its size and features.</p> Adobe features freeware how-tos pdf productivity Software Software How-Tos utilities Features Thu, 28 Jan 2010 21:00:40 +0000 Mark Edward Soper 10579 at How to Properly Benchmark Your PC <!--paging_filter--><table border="0" align="right"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"> digg_url = ''; </script><script src="" type="text/javascript"></script></td> </tr> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"> tweetmeme_url = ''; </script><script type="text/javascript" src=""></script></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>To casual observers, PC builders who fixate on benchmarks are geeks unable to see the forest from the trees. “Why,” they ask, “can’t you just enjoy your new computer and let it be?” Our answer: the difference between a person who cares about benchmarking and one who doesn’t is how much that person values their free time. </p> <p>Case in point, we recently did something as simple as download two large zip files at the end of the work day. Instead of strolling out at 6 p.m., we ended up waiting 15 minutes for the files to be decompressed on our work-issued PC. To care about benchmark is to care about performance. And to care about performance is to care about having more free time on your hand.</p> <p align="center"> <img src="" width="405" height="300" /></p> <p>But you shouldn’t just download any benchmarking tool to run--there’s a right and wrong way to benchmark your machine if you want to get meaningful results. We’ll teach you proper benchmarking techniques and how to interpret your results. Read on to learn how to benchmark the Maximum PC way. </p> <h2>Preflight your PC</h2> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u17625/13newpc_405.jpg" width="405" height="300" /> </p> <p>Getting repeatable, reliable benchmark results isn’t just about picking the right benchmark, it’s also about configuring your PC properly too. Here are some basic tips every armchair benchmarker should perform before running his or her first benchmark run:</p> <p><strong>Turn off any screen saver</strong>: Even though the screen saver is supposed to stay inactive during use, you should always completely disable the screensaver.</p> <p><strong>Turn off power saving modes</strong>: Unless you’re interested in measuring power consumption of the machine using a Watt meter, all benchmark runs should be conducted with the machine set to high performance mode in the OS.</p> <p><strong>Disconnect from Internet:</strong> Remove any Ethernet cable or disconnect any Wi-Fi connection unless it’s needed for your benchmarking run.</p> <p><strong>Disable antivirus apps: </strong>Unless you want to see the impact of having AV overhead on a machine, disable any antivirus tools for your benchmarking run.</p> <p><strong>Turn off autoupdate:</strong> Windows update should be switched off to prevent it from download a massive huge patch (You did disconnect the network connection right?) or to prevent it from eating CPU cycles looking for one. Other apps that autoupdate should also be turned off as well. </p> <p><strong>Defrag your hard drive: </strong>If the drive is heavily fragmented, we recommend that you invoke a defrag of the disk. Those with SSD’s, obviously, need not perform this step.</p> <p><strong>Disable System Restore:</strong> Turning off System Restore will prevent Windows from creating those restore points.</p> <p><strong>Reboot: </strong>Self explanatory.</p> <p><strong>Wait for the machine to fully boot:</strong> As we all know, it takes a minute or a few minutes for the OS to load all of the files it needs – even after you’re presented with the desktop. Wait a few minutes until disk activity has subsided.</p> <p><strong>Run ProcessIdleTasks:</strong> Spawn a “DOS box” by typing run CMD and type: “Rundll32.exe advapi32.dll,ProcessIdleTasks” This will order Windows to perform all of the tasks it would normally do when the system is idle. </p> <p><strong>Repeat your benchmark:</strong> We recommend that you run your benchmark at least three times to five times and to take the median score. </p> <h2>The Three ‘Rs of benchmarking</h2> <h3>Real-world</h3> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u53951/farcry2.jpg" width="415" height="259" /> </p> <p>Real-world benchmark wasn’t always the en vogue. Years ago, the enthusiast community mostly relied on synthetic benchmarks (some prefer the term ‘artificial benchmarks’). That trend broke when people realized that vendors were skewing their drivers to increase performance in the synthetic tests, which actually hurt real-world gaming performance. This move pushed benchmarkers toward real-world apps and games with the thought that performance enhancements will deliver real benefit. </p> <h3>Relevance</h3> <p>Just like you wouldn’t bring a Klingon d’k tahg to a phaser fight, you shouldn’t use a CPU benchmark to test a hard drive. As easy as it would be to understand, you wouldn’t believe how many times we see people cite a benchmark intended as a GPU test to illustrate CPU performance. For every benchmark you run, you’ll want to understand what component it’s most influenced by: CPU, GPU, RAM or HDD.</p> <h3>Repeatability</h3> <p>So you’ve found a benchmark actually works for your needs. Great! But is it repeatable? Can you run it five times on the same machine and have it produce the same results within a tolerable level of variance of, say, three percent?</p> <h2>Synthetic vs. Real World</h2> <p>As we mentioned, real-world applications have been established as the preferred benchmarking tools for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean synthetic benchmarks are irrelevant. In fact, synthetic benchmarks can be quite useful in evaluating a focused set of components such as RAM, the CPU or hard drive. Some synthetic tests can even be considered partially real-world.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /> </p> <p>The classic complaint against synthetic tests is that they used tests or engines that were optimized solely for the benefit of the benchmark results. But many synthetic tests today are based on real-world engines or use algorithms developed from popular applications. PC Mark’s hard drive tests, for example, uses traces of what apps or the OS does. It then runs these traces against the hard drive to measure hard drive performance. </p> <p>You can see how the line between synthetic and real-world benchmarks can get easily blurred today. In some cases, actually finding real-world benchmarks that stress a particular component is difficult. RAM is probably one of the best examples of that. It’s actually very difficult to find real-world benchmarks that will exploit either the low latency or high bandwidth features of modern RAM. It’s only through synthetic benchmarks that you can actually see that you’re benefiting from any additional bandwidth at all. Hard drive features is also fairly difficult to discern without the use of at least some synthetic benchmarks. </p> <p>Next: Let's get on to the actual benchmarking tools! </p> <hr /> <h2>Benchmarking the CPU <br /></h2> <p>There’s common mistake that rookie benchmarkers often make when starting out. Many people think that running one benchmark is enough to tell you everything about one type of component. But all a single benchmark will tell you is how a particular component performs <em>that one benchmark</em>. And of all the parts in a PC, the one that’s the most difficult to judge is the CPU. Even with the GPU encroaching on it, the CPU continues to be the king as the vast majority of apps still rely on it for the heavy lifting. From photo editing, to video editing to 3D modeling, anti-virus scans, and decompressing files, the CPU continues to be the go to part that most applications seek out. How you go about testing the CPU really depends what kind of performance you want to test for. Floating point performance? Integer performance? How fast does it encode video or play certain games?</p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u17625/nehalem_build_teaser.jpg" width="415" height="277" /> </p> <p>One other key element to consider before you benchmark your CPU is multi-threading. Just as very few applications exploit all of the threads available in a processor, very few benchmarks do as well. That is changing but you’d be surprised at the number of benchmarks that fail to measure the performance of a modern quad core. </p> <h3><a href="">PC Mark Vantage</a></h3> <p>FutureMark’s PC Mark Vantage is one of those benchmarks that has one foot in the real-world and another foot in the synthetic. The test uses workloads derived from the apps that come with Windows and traces of common hard drive loads to discern computer performance. The upside is that it uses test scenarios based on “real apps” and is actually a pretty fair estimate of computer performance. Many of the tests blend single-threaded apps with multi-threaded or run multiple applications to gauge multi-tasking performing. </p> <p>The downside is that not very many people actually use those freebie apps that Microsoft bundles with its OS. Another downside is the abstracted score which makes it hard for people to want to see a pure “hard drive” or “CPU” performance number. Don’t take that all as a negative though. While Windows Photo Gallery doesn’t necessarily translate into direct performance in Photoshop CS4, but we haven’t seen it come down on the wrong side of a CPU test. Generally, we’ve been pretty pleased with PC Mark Vantage. It produces fairly reliable numbers that seem to jibe with other benchmarks. The fact that it’s multi-faceted also gives you a nice way to quickly gauge your machine’s performance. </p> <p>One more thing to be aware of: the overall score that PC Mark Vantage produces is based on a set of test criteria that is unique to the PC Mark Vantage tests. Individual tests suites for Memory, TV and Movies, Music, Gaming, Communications and Productivity are actually different tests than the overall PC Mark Vantage Score. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="350" /> </p> <p>Futuremark has a free version of PC Mark Vantage that lets you run it once on your machine. It’s a bit of a pain since you can only view the results online and you have to request a trial-key to run the utility. For additional runs, you have to pay a modest fee of $6.95 to run the main PC Mark Vantage suite. The other suites will cost you $20 and allow you to change some benchmark settings. For the most part, the main PC Mark Vantage suite score is the one that most people care about. Keep in mind, that there is a 64-bit and 32-bit version and you should compare only 64-bit to 64-bit when trying to compare one machine to another.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="303" /> </p> <p> Running the test is simple--select the 64-bit or 32-bit icon from your desktop after <a href="">downloading </a>and installing it, and click run benchmark. You’ll be asked to request a trial key and have to supply an email address. Once you’re done, the results will take you a web page where you can see how fast your machine is and also get a reality check by seeing a score from the fastest machine compared to yours.   </p> <h3><a href="">Cinebench 10</a>, <a href="">POVRAY</a></h3> <p>One of the heaviest workloads you can put on a CPU today is 3D modeling. In 3D modeling, performance is the difference between getting the project done on time or not at all. There are benchmarks for Autudesk’s 3Ds max, Newtek’s Lightwave and other pricey applications, but you have to have licensed copies of these applications which can run into the thousands of dollars. Fortunately, there’s a cheaper way to gauge how a particular system may perform at 3D rendering. <a href="">Maxon’s  Cinebench R10</a> is based on the company’s rendering engine used in its Cinema 4D modeler. Most 3D modeling is floating point intensive. Again, keep in mind that Cinebench has a 64-bit mode and a 32-bit mode. The benchmark also lets you test it in single threaded or multi-threaded mode. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="313" /> </p> <p>To run it, simply install it and launch it. Select Rendering 1 CPU to run a single-threaded run or Rendering X CPU to run a multi-threaded test. Like, PC Mark Vantage, the results are expressed as a numerical score--the higher the better. Cinebench 10 is nicely multi-threaded and takes full advantage of today’s many core CPUs.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="417" /> </p> <p>POV Ray is another popular 3D rendering benchmark that’s available for free from <a href=""></a>. One thing you need to know: make sure you download the 3.7 version from the beta page. This is the only version that is multi-threaded. Again, make sure you download the correction version for your OS: 32-bit for 32-bit and 64-bit for 64-bit. To run it, simply click on the render menu item, select run benchmark all CPUs. The score you’re most interested in is the CPU time which is expressed in seconds in the purplish part of the window. </p> <hr /> <h3><a href="">Fritz Chess Benchmark</a> and <a href="">ScienceMark 2.0</a></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="423" /> </p> <p>For a different view of computer performance, we also rely on Fritz Chess Benchmark and ScienceMark 2.0. Fritz Chess Benchmark is based on the popular Chessbase engine, so it’s considered real-world (although slightly out of date for the free benchmark.) Running it is straightforward: simply fire up the app and click start. You should note Fritz will indicate how many “processors” it’s going to use. The number will include all of the physical cores in your chip as well as any virtual cores. The result gives you the performance of your machine versus a 1GHz Pentium III as well as how many kilo nodes per second it can compute. A kilo node per second is how many moves per second are being computed. The benchmark ships free with copies of Fritz 9 or can be <a href="">found online</a>. </p> <p align="center"><a href="" class="thickbox"><img src="" width="405" height="324" /></a> </p> <p>ScienceMark 2.0 is another synthetic that’s rooted in a real-world engine. It uses mathematical algorithms common in scientific and engineering applications and also stresses memory performance and latency. The caveat to this benchmark is that it doesn’t seem to be particularly multithreaded. And back in the days when Intel Pentium 4 would get soundly splattered by the Athlon 64 in ScienceMark 2.0, the company would grouse that the authors of ScienceMark 2.0 weren’t interested in working with Intel in addressing optimizations for its CPUs. But with Intel taking the lead with Core 2 and Core i7, Intel doesn’t seem to object to this test as much anymore. Running it is easy. <a href="">Download the installation file</a> and decompress it. Execute the file and click on File, Run All Benchmarks. The results will give you an overall ScienceMark score as well as subscores for molecular dynamics, cryptography, memory, among other benchmark scores. </p> <h3><a href="">Prime95 </a>and <a href="">SuperPi</a></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="277" /> </p> <p>Although these are single-threaded, two popular benchmarks are great for calculating the math prowess of a CPU: Prime95 and SuperPi. Both have actually long been favored by overclockers as stress tests but both also will give you overall scores as a performance indicator. The weakness with both tests, obviously, is the lack of multi-threading. The preferred version of SuperPi is 1.5 and has been modified by to make it more amenable to stress testing. <a href="">It’s available here</a>. To run it, execute the app and select Calculate and select 1M and the program will calculate pi to one million digits. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="512" height="600" /> </p> <p>Like SuperPi, Prime95 is considered more of a stress test than a benchmark. In fact, we use a custom blend of Prime95 developed by an OEM PC builder to stress test many of the overclocked PCs we review. Prime95 is a distributed project used to search for Mersenne prime numbers. To run the benchmark, first download it from <a href=""></a>. Start the application, dismiss the stress testing screen, and go to Options Run Benchmark. When it’s complete, the results are dumped into a file named results.txt that should be in the same folder where the executable resides. Open the file and you should find results for each separate run you conducted reported in milliseconds. You can compare the results to others at: <a href=""></a>.</p> <hr /> <h2>Benchmarking the Hard drive</h2> <p>Hard drive benchmarking is perhaps one of the most difficult components to gauge. For many years, users relied solely on straight file copying tests: Take a few gigabyte of files and dump them to a target hard drive three or four times and time it with a stop watch. Sounds real-world and accurate doesn’t it? Unfortunately it isn’t. Straight file copies have often proven to be unreliable. That’s mainly because you have no control over where the data is dumped on the drive. And since the placement of data is on a mechanical hard drive you can easily get whacky results.  </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="262" /> </p> <p>We don’t mean to say that file copying is completely invalid as a measurement of performance, but this is an area where synthetics can be more reliable than real-world tests. Two of the most popular tests include HD Tach 3 (<a href=""></a>) and HD Tune 4 (<a href=""></a>). For Vista and Windows 7 users, HD Tach requires a bit of tweaking since it was designed for Windows XP. To enable its use in Vista and 7, right mouse click on the icon, click properties and set the compatibility to Windows XP SP2. On startup, choose the target drive to test and choose long bench. Click Run Test. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="297" /> </p> <p>You will be given four results that matter: the average read performance, random access time, CPU utilization and burst speed. The two that matter are average read performance and random access time. The relevance of burst speed to performance is up for debate. The general consensus is that it doesn’t matter much the cache’s in hard drives (even today’s supersized 64MB caches) are so small that they can’t really help much. On the other hand, some feel that burst performance can be a quite significant if seen as an indicator of how well the drive’s caching performance and read-ahead algorithms perform. CPU utilization also is fairly meaningless since it’s usually below 5 percent. This figure should only concern you if it’s double digits as it might indicate some problem with the storage subsystem.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="355" /> </p> <p>HD Tach’s one weakness is its inability to perform write tests (at least on the free version.) Fortunately, that’s one thing you can do with HD Tune (<a href=""></a>) for 14 days. The trial version lets you run write tests on drives for the duration of the trial period. Starting it is simple; launch the app, select your target drive click start. If you plan on running the write tests, you’ll have to delete the partition on the target drive first. Obviously, don’t do this on the primary partition that you are using. </p> <h2>Benchmarking RAM</h2> <p>Gauging RAM performance with real-world applications is probably even more difficult than hard drive benchmarking. Like the Great White Whale, we’ve long looked for the application that would instantly show you just how much more performance you get from running ultra-tight RAM timing tolerance or clocking the modules past the 2GHz mark. In all our years of system testing, we’ve never found it. We don’t mean to say that it doesn’t exist. Valve’s non-public multi-threaded particle benchmark typically favors lower latency RAM setups. But even there you don’t see magical results. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="405" /> </p> <p>To actually see if your overclocked RAM even gives you more bandwidth, you’ll have to turn to the synthetic tests. We favor <a href="">Sisoft Sandra Lite</a> and <a href="">Everest Ultimate</a>. Sisoft Sandra Lite. Launch the app and click the benchmarks tab. Select Memory Bandwidth and press the F5 key to run the benchmark. The app will give you a score and give you four other chipset/RAM/CPUs that you can compare your results too. You can do the same with Memory Latency as well.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="290" /> </p> <p>The free version of Everest Ultimate gives you a 14-day trial period. That’s plenty of time to run all the benchmarks you want. To test your RAM with Everest, install the app, launch it and click on the Benchmark icon. Select Memory Read and click on the refresh icon on top. You can do the same for Memory Write, Memory Copy, and Memory Latency. Like Sandra, Everest Ultimate will also give you a lengthy comparative list of motherboards/CPUs/chipsets so you to gloat (if you have happen to have a triple-channel board and proc) or turn sullen (if you happen to still be pushing a Pentium 4 on an 848 chipset an pushing 2.6GB/s in bandwidth.</p> <p>So you’ve run your benchmarks, now what? Besides using it to be proud of your rig, you can use these two tools to tune your RAM for higher bandwidth or lower latency. Just note your score before rebooting into the BIOS where you can clock your RAM higher or latency lower.</p> <hr /> <h2>Benchmarking the GPU</h2> <p>Benchmarking graphics cards gets more difficult every year. In the old days, most people had 4:3 CRT displays, and usually ran games at relatively low resolutions. Today’s gaming environment is considerably more complex. We’ve now got wide screen displays running in a variety of resolutions and two different aspect ratios (16:10 and 16:9). </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="190" /> </p> <p>Then there’s the confusing issue of APIs. It’s true that OpenGL for PC gaming is less relevant than it used to be, but now we have multiple versions of DirectX: DirectX 9, 10 and 11. Each offers different capabilities and feature sets. Currently, only AMD offers DX11 class GPUs, though that may change by the time you read this.</p> <p>The next layer of complexity is figuring out which benchmarks are relevant. FutureMark’s 3DMark series has been popular for doing quick tests, but it’s also understood that a 3DMark score doesn’t always reflect how a particular GPU might perform in real games.</p> <p>Then again, game benchmarks don’t always reflect reality, either. Take, for example, Far Cry 2. This Ubisoft title has one of the best built-in benchmarking tools we’ve seen. The problem is that it’s actually multiple benchmarks. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="233" /></p> <p align="center"><em>Far Cry 2 offers rich benchmarking opportunities – almost too rich.</em></p> <p>So which benchmark is more useful? The longer, “Ranch Long”, which is almost purely a graphics test? The “Playback (Action Scene)”, in which AI and physics has a major role? Or the “Ranch Small”, which is more balanced between CPU heavy and GPU heavy elements? </p> <p>If what you really want to do is test purely graphics performance, you’d not only choose the “Ranch Long”, you’d also take pains to disable AI and other CPU elements in the Game Settings tab. If what you want is to check out performance during actual gameplay, the Action Scene might be better – but CPU performance would have a large effect. On top of all this is the fact that a particular graphics card performance in Far Cry 2 might not reflect how it performs in a completely different game. </p> <p>Then there’s the resolution question. Again, if you’re looking to just hammer on the GPU, run at very high resolutions. Then, add to the GPU’s pain by pumping up anti-aliasing and maxing out game detail and effects. So the right answer would be to use a big display – say, a 30-inch monster running at 2560x1600, right?</p> <p>Well, not necessarily – not everyone has a 30-inch, 2560x1600 display. For example, if you take a look at the <a href="">Steam user survey</a>, you’ll see that the largest single group of users – over 20% -- is running at 1280x1024. That’s a 5:4 aspect ratio, and a pretty undemanding resolution. In addition, a $100 graphics card will completely tank at very high resolutions, while delivering very playable frame rates at something like 1280x1024.</p> <p>The right answer, of course, is to run multiple different benchmarks at multiple resolutions. But you do have take a stand and minimize the number of variables, or you’d spend all your time benchmarking games and not actually playing games. If you’re testing your own personal setup, you’ll of course be limited by your CPU and your display. In our labs, we take a middle ground. We do test at multiple resolutions and using many games, but we also try to find the sweet spot for each card. When we benchmark a dual GPU card like the Radeon HD 5970, we’ll run it on a 30-inch display. On the other hand, we might max out at 1680x1050 for a sub-$100 card, but also test at lower resolutions, like 1280x720.</p> <p>We’ve already discussed how to set up your system for more reliable benchmarking. What works for CPUs and systems also works for graphics cards, with one additional wrinkle: make sure you’re running the latest graphics driver. Performance in some titles can go up by over 10% just with a driver update (though in rare cases, you may actually see performance decreases.)</p> <p>The good news is that you can find a pretty good set of graphics benchmarks that cost you nothing but download time and some time to learn. If you want to spend $50 for a particular game to run as a benchmark, feel free. But here’s our handy guide to a few of the good, free graphics tests.</p> <h3>S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat</h3> <p>The developers at GSC Game World have released two games based on their excellent S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. The latest is the <a href=";item=150">Call of Prypiyat test</a>, which supports DirectX 9, Direct 10 and DirectX 11. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="196" /></p> <p align="center"><em>Call of Pripyat supports the latest APIs and is fairly simple to run.</em></p> <p>Call of Pripyat is a first person shooter, but there’s no actual action in the benchmark, though AI is active. You’ll see characters walking around, but not actually engaged in combat. Since it tests multiple APIs, it’s good for finding the sweet spot for your particular GPU. CoP, as it’s often called, offers a fairly simple set of parameters: pick an API, pick a detail level and, if you like, enable AA and other features.</p> <h3>DiRT2</h3> <p>DiRT2 is the latest in the series of racing titles that started with the original Colin McCrae game. The free, <a href="">downloadable demo</a>. DiRT2 is a recent game that support DirectX 11, 10 and 9, so is about as current as you can get.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="415" height="233" /> </p> <p>The problem with DiRT2 is that it’s somewhat cumbersome to run as a benchmark. First, you need to run the demo. Then you have to navigate the menu to find the options screen. You start inside your in-game RV trailer, have to leave the trailer to go outside, find the options table, and then select graphics. After all that, you still need to scroll down to the bottom of the graphics options to find the benchmark mode.</p> <hr /> <h3>BattleForge</h3> <p><a href="">BattleForge</a> is an online, real-time strategy game from EA that uses a free-to-play model, so you can download and run it at no cost. Since it’s a real-time strategy game, it uses graphics a little differently than a first person shooter. In the scripted benchmark, for example, there’s about a hundred units running around doing stuff – engaging in combat, throwing spells and otherwise creating mayhem. </p> <p align="center"><img src="/files/u16580/daveblog_freebench3.jpg" width="415" height="259" /> </p> <p>The benchmark, as with many games, is buried in the graphics option menu. The benchmark itself is only about a minute long. However, actually running the test is even more tedious than running the DiRT2 benchmark. First, you’ll need to download the installer. When you run the installer, it proceeds to download about 1.3GB of content. Be sure to include the option for high resolution textures, or you won’t be able to benchmark in the high detail mode.</p> <p>After you install the game, you’ll also need to create a BattleForge account. Finally, you can log in, run the game, and go into the graphics options. Even then, it’s something of a pain, because every time you make a major change to a graphics option, you have to exit the game and restart – which means re-logging in. It’s a good thing that this is a free game.<br />Still, it’s one of the few RTS-based tests, and it is free, so it’s worth checking out if you’re into these types of titles.</p> <h3>Resident Evil 5 Demo</h3> <p><a href="">This particular demo</a> supports DirectX 9 and 10, but also has support for Nvidia’s 3D Vision stereoscopic 3D, so you can even benchmark this card wearing shutter glasses, if you think that’s interesting.</p> <p>As game demos go, it’s not a huge download, at about 580MB. It’s dead simple to run, too. When you run the launcher, choose either DX9 or DX10 mode. When in the demo, you press a key, select “System Settings”, then set the resolution and features. Once you ESC back to the main screen, you hit a key again and select “Benchmarks.” The “Fixed Benchmark” is shorter, and generates more repeatable results. At the end, you’ll get a summary screen, showing you an average frame rate and a chart of frame rate over time.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="254" /></p> <p align="center"><em>Resident Evil 5, with all the eye candy turned up, can still stress a graphic card, even though it’s almost a pure port of the console title.</em></p> <h3>Unigine Heaven</h3> <p>Although based on an actual game engine, the <a href="">Unigine Heaven</a> is a synthetic test, designed to check out DirectX 11 performance on the latest generation of graphics cards. It even offers manual settings for hardware tessellation, a feature available only on DirectX 11 capable GPUs. It will also run in DX10, DX9 and OpenGL, so you can test a variety of APIs, but remember that performance will vary by API and enabled, API specific feature, like hardware tessellation.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="252" /></p> <p align="center"><em>Unigine’s Heaven benchmark runs all currently supported graphics APIs, and supports hardware tessellation under DX11.</em></p> <h2>One Note about Professional Graphics</h2> <p>If you’re a graphics artist or professional CAD user, you may want to test performance of your card in that context. The problem here is that professional graphics apps vary in performance on specific GPUs even more than games, and the CPU can often be a big factor.</p> <p>If you do want to see how your graphics card performs, there are several free benchmarks that can assist you. We won’t go into details as to how to run them, but there are a couple of good free benchmarks. In addition, there are several application-specific tests, but those often require you to own the app. If you are, for example, a 3dsmax 9 user, you may want to see how your card (and system performs with benchmarks for that particular app.</p> <p>One quick and easy source is SPEC, the <a href="">Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation</a>, a standards group that develops a variety of benchmarks. One free benchmark that’s widely used is SPECViewperf, now at version 10. SPEC also offers app specific tests for 3dsmax 9, Maya 6.5, SolidEdge and others. </p> <h2>Bottom Line: Remember the Context</h2> <p>It’s easy to get mired in frame rates, feature sets and driver versions. Remember, though, a difference of a few frames per second really doesn’t matter (as long as you’re staying above 45 fps in shooters and 30fps in simulation and RTS titles.) Benchmarking graphics cards is a great way to check out the performance of your rig, and maybe help you decide when it’s really time to upgrade. In the end, though, it’s about how well the games you like perform on the hardware you own. Benchmarking should be a tool to help you enjoy your gaming experience, not a competition unto itself.</p> benchmarking Build a PC features how-tos Software Software How-Tos Features Wed, 27 Jan 2010 16:00:00 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung &amp; Loyd Case 10533 at How-To: Deck Out Your Desktop with the 12 Best Rainmeter Skins <!--paging_filter--><table border="0" align="right"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"> digg_url = ''; </script><script src="" type="text/javascript"></script></td> </tr> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"> tweetmeme_url = ''; </script><script type="text/javascript" src=""></script></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>From Google Desktop to the Windows Sidebar introduced in Vista, there have been several attempts to integrate our online life onto our desktop. But none of them come close to Rainmeter, a totally customizable platform for decking out your desktop with a variety of useful applets that can stand prominently in the foreground or blend into the background.</p> <p>There's a lot you can do with Rainmeter thanks to a diverse collection of available 'skins' (think of them as widgets), all of which can be individually tailored in look and function. There are skins for keeping tabs on system resources, displaying RSS feeds, sending and receiving Twitter messages, and even recording notes.</p> <p>Rainmeter isn't at all difficult to use, but there is an initial learning curve as you come to understand just how powerful this unassuming app really is. On the following pages, we'll guide you through the setup process and show you the ins and outs of using Rainmeter. We'll also highlight the 12 best skins out of the hundreds that are available to give you a head start on decking out your desktop like never before.</p> <p>Hit the jump and let the fun begin! </p> <h2>Rainmeter vs HTMLifying Your Desktop </h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="276" /></p> <p>Long time readers of Maximum PC magazine may recall that several years back we printed a tutorial showing you how to HTMLify your desktop (courtesy of Google Books, you can still read the guide in the <a href=";printsec=frontcover&amp;source=gbs_v2_summary_r&amp;cad=0#v=onepage&amp;q=&amp;f=false">July 2003 issue</a> starting on page 56). In it, recently resigned Editor-in-Chief Will Smith showed you how to add HTML elements to your desktop background and even embed a large webpage right smack dab in the center of your display. It was a pretty awesome trick with several upshots, all of which are improved upon with Rainmeter.</p> <p>Rainmeter essentially streamlines the process of HTMLifying your desktop by allowing you to easily add all kinds of online elements to your display, be they RSS readers, a Twitter feed, Facebook updates, and really just about anything you want. It's a highly flexible platform, too. Code junkies may want to write their own applets, while those who are intimidated by a Command Prompt can still jump in and easily customize any skin without ever feeling lost or overwhelmed. </p> <h2>Sounds Like Samurize</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p align="center"><span style="font-size: xx-small">Image Credit:</span></p> <p>Rainmeter isn't the only app of its kind, and the biggest alternative is probably Samurize. The two are similar in what they can do, but Rainmeter's generally easier to use, especially with the latest update. Rainmeter also boasts better OS compatibility and fully embraces both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors of Windows, including Redmond's latest, Windows 7.</p> <p>Comparisons aside, here's a brief rundown of what Rainmeter offers:</p> <ul> <li><strong>System Monitor</strong> - keep a constant watch on how much heavy lifting your CPU is doing, your network activity, how much drive space is remaining, and more, and all without firing up the obtrusive Task Manager.</li> <li><strong>Stay Connected</strong> - view RSS feeds, social networking updates, incoming email, the weather, and other Web-based content without loading up another browser window or tab.</li> <li><strong>App Management</strong> - Rainmeter's app management is limitless, bound only by what you want to do. Arrange commonly used apps in a custom dock, or create your own launchers.</li> <li><strong>Fully Customizable</strong> - you have full control over every aspect of Rainmeter, including the look, function, and placement. And all of these can be changed on a whim, whether it's adjusting the transparency of a skin, or changing the source of an RSS feed. </li> </ul> <h2>Using Rainmeter<br /></h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>Sounds pretty great, right? It is, and you can get started by downloading a copy of Rainmeter from <a href="">here</a>. Rainmeter installs just like any other app, and with the latest release (version 1.1), it also comes bundled with the popular Enigma suite of skins, as well as a couple of handy tools (RainBrowser and RainThemes) for managing everything.</p> <p>You'll notice several different elements when you load Rainmeter for the first time, all of which are part of the Enigma suite, and all of which can be customized. There's a taskbar at the bottom with several launchers (iTunes, Picasa, Firefox, Notepad, and Trillian), plus a system monitor pushed over to the right side. All of these can be changed or substituted, which we'll get to in a little bit.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="241" /></p> <p>On the right you'll notice a transparent sidebar containing a news feed, the date/time, a notes section, and other odds and ends. And in the middle of the screen is a control panel, which we'll focus on first.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="339" /></p> <p>One way to customize the default Enigma skin is by pressing the Configuration button on the control panel (you can also access this by clicking the middle mouse button on the Sidebar). Enigma comes preconfigured with a ton of applets, most of which are self explanatory. Streaming information to your desktop begins by filling out the appropriate fields. To view Twitter feeds, for example, you would click on and fill out the TwitterUsername and TwitterPassword fields. Be warned, however, that Enigma doesn't hide your password, so not only will anyone standing behind you be able to see what you're typing in, but so too can anyone who has access to your PC. </p> <p>Other settings you'll encounter include Google Calendar, RSS feeds, hard drive information, and other odds and ends. Once you've filled out the appropriate fields, your next step is to make them show up. For this, you'll use the familiar right-click context menu specially designed for Rainmeter. On the sidebar or custom taskbar, right-click and take a peek at the menus. It's a little confusing at first, but once you poke around and get acclimated to the terms, you'll be whizzing through the menus in no time. For now, the one you're looking for is the Configs menu, as this holds all the skins that are installed. Not all skins share the same layout, so be sure to poke around to see what all is offered.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="413" /></p> <p>Let's say we want to enable our Twitter feed in the Sidebar. To do so, we would right-click and navigate to Configs&gt;Enigma&gt;Sidebar&gt;&gt;Reader&gt;Twitter-Reader. In there you'll see an entry for TwitterReader.ini. Rainmeter's magic works by reading .ini files (short for initialization), which are text files containing configuration information for Windows. We'll dive into this in a minute, but for now, click/check the box to the left of TwitterReader.ini. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="267" /></p> <p>Don't see the applet you just enabled? That's because it doesn't show up on the Sidebar by default, and instead is sitting in the upper left corner of your desktop. Applets float freely on your desktop, so relocating them is as easy and clicking in dragging, but usually not right in the center. In this case, you'll notice two faint lines bordering the Twitter applet, one on the top and one on the bottom. Click on either of these and drag it anywhere on your desktop, including the Sidebar. You can also click on your Twitter feed to load up your Twitter account in your default browser. </p> <hr /> <h2>RainBrowser</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="304" /></p> <p>There's so much you can do with Rainmeter, it's easy to get overwhelmed, and that's where the RainBrowser helps out immensely. If you open up the Start menu and expand the Rainmeter folder, you'll find a shortcut to the RainBrowser. Or you can right-click the Sidebar or any of Rainmeter's applets and navigate to Configs&gt;Manage Skins. </p> <p>RainBrowser packs a bunch of useful information into an easy-to-navigate window, and if you're ever in doubt an applet's function, this is the place to look. Listed in the Active tab are all the active applets currently running. When you highlight an entry, the associated .ini file will be listed in the bottom box under Skins and Variants. If you click on this, RainBrowser's main box window will list out the configuration file's vitals, such as a description, instructions on how to use it, who designed it, the version number, and more. </p> <p>Underneath this section you'll find two different sets of actions you can perform, one for just that applet (called a 'skin'), or global actions for all loaded applets. If you've made changes to an applet's configuration file, you'll need to Refresh Skin before the changes take effect, and you can do that here, among other self-explanatory actions (Unload Skin, for example).</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="304" /></p> <p>You can also make visual changes to the applet by clicking on Edit Skin. Doing so updates the main window with different settings, allowing you do things like adjust the transparency, configure an applet to fade in, out, or hide when mousing over it, whether or not to make it draggable, and a few other options.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="271" /></p> <p>RainBrowser isn't required to manipulate a skin; you can make the same changes by editing the associated .ini file. To edit Enigma's Notes applet, for example, you would locate the .ini file on your hard, which is located at:</p> <p><strong>C:\[USERNAME\Documents\Skins\Enigma\Sidebar\Notes</strong></p> <p>Alternately, you can right-click the Sidebar and click Config&gt;Edit Skins' Folder and navigate from there. Once there, double-click the Notes.ini file (or any other configuration file you want to alter) to open it up and edit as desired. </p> <p>It's important to remember that everything that appears on screen is a skin/applet. This includes the Sidebar itself, which is nothing more than a vertical bar. Other applets that appear on the Sidebar aren't actually attached to it, they just sit on top of it. If you wanted to, you could move the Sidebar around your desktop and leave it unoccupied, or cover your regular desktop icons with. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p>By playing around with the Transparency and Fade In/Out settings, you can piece together a really slick looking desktop that will be the envy of any who see it. </p> <h2>RSS Feeds</h2> <p>One of the best ways to utilize Rainmeter is by setting up RSS feeds so you're constantly updated on whatever interests you -- be it world events or tech news -- no matter what you're doing. Setting them up, however, can be a little trickly, at least at first.</p> <p>If you're running the stock Enigma skin-set, click the middle mouse button on the Sidebar to bring up the EnigmaConfigure window. You'll see three entries for RSS feeds, each of which can be customized. Highlight one of them and enter in the RSS URL you're interested in following. For Maximum PC, the URL is <strong></strong>. Press Set to save the change.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="339" /></p> <p>Next you need to enable the RSS feed to show up in the Sidebar. Simply right-click and navigate to Configs&gt;Enigma&gt;Sidebar&gt;Reader&gt;RSSReader and check ReaderRSS.ini.</p> <p>There are two things to note here. First, any changes you make to each RSS's URL field won't be reflected until you refresh Enigma. Right-click and select Refresh All, and all of your applets will be updated with any new info. Secondly, if you want to give your RSS feeds a more descriptive title than 'News,' you'll need to poke around the actual .ini file. In this case, you can find them at:</p> <p><strong>C:\[USERNAME\Documents\Skins\Enigma\Sidebar\Reader</strong></p> <p>You'll see three folders here, RSS-Reader, RSS-Reader2, and RSS-Reader3. Each one contains an individual .ini file, so to change the title of the first RSS reader, open up the folder and double-click/edit ReaderRSS.ini. It may look a little confusing at first glance, but scroll down about halfway until you see:</p> <p>[Title]<br />Meter=STRING<br />MeasureName=Feed<br />Text=&quot;News&quot;</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="274" /></p> <p>The Text entry is the one we're after, as we want a more descriptive title than just 'News.' Change this to something like Maximum PC News, and be sure to enclose the title in quotes. Save your changes, and then refresh Enigma as shown above. </p> <hr /> <h2>Dissecting a Rainmeter INI File</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="228" /></p> <p>Okay, so editing an RSS feed's title is pretty easy, but what's all that other junk contained in the .ini files? If you plan on doing a lot of editing, or even making your own skins, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the different terms and file structure. Here's how it breaks down:</p> <p><strong>Metadata:</strong> This section is where a skin's author can include important information about his applet, including the name and version number, but also specific instructions on how to use it.</p> <p><strong>Measures:</strong> Aptly named measures are used to measure system stats such as the time and date, or to pluck information from a website, such as the local weather, among many other tasks. In short, measures tell Rainmeter what it needs to do.</p> <p><strong>Meters: </strong>These describe how Rainmeter outputs a measure, be it with a histogram, an image, a button, and a bunch of other options. </p> <p><strong>Variables: </strong>Variables are keywords that will be repeatedly used in a skin and are sort of like a master list. To use Rainmeter's example (which we'll link below), if you set a variable for the size of a font to use on all meters as FontSize=11, you would then use FontSize=#FontSize# in each meter. This way, you can change the font size in all your meters later on by just changing the master variable (from 11 to 13, for example), rather than editing each meter. </p> <p>For a more in depth break down of skins and Rainmeter's nomenclature, see both <a href="">here </a>and <a href="">here</a>. </p> <h2>Installing Skins</h2> <p>Now that you have a pretty good idea how Rainmeter works, it's time to start experimenting with skins, which is where the real fun begins. You'll find user-created skins all over the Web, but we suggest poking around these sites:</p> <ul> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=""></a></li> <li><a href=";section=&amp;q=rainmeter"></a></li> </ul> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="268" /></p> <p>When you find a skin you want to try out, download and unzip the archive. You should find a folder with the name of the skin you just downloaded, and you'll need to place this in:</p> <p><strong>C:\Users\[Username]\Documents\Rainmeter\Skins</strong></p> <p>You'll also find a Skins folder under the Rainmeter directory in your Program Files, but putting them there won't do you any good. After you've transferred your skin to the correct location (and, if applicable, installed any included fonts by copying them over to C:\Windows\Fonts), right-click the Sidebar and click Refresh All. To load applets from your new skin, right-click again and navigate to Configs. You should see the skin(s) you just installed, and you would use them just like you did with Enigma.</p> <h2>Quick Tips<br /></h2> <p>Don't be afraid to play around with different skins by mixing and matching them. There's no need to restrict yourself to a single skin, and in many cases, downloaded skins only offer a handful of applets to play around with, such as a customized clock or system monitor. Skins like Enigma, which contain a whole host of applets, are fairly rare compared to all the skins that are available.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="369" /></p> <p>Your choice of wallpaper will also play a big role in how your skin(s) look on your desktop. Combining a skin that makes use of a futuristic sci-fi font or Star Trek them will look pretty silly on a Spongebob background, but will be right at home with a wallpaper depicting space scenes. And if your skin doesn't blend in quite like you hoped, either try a different wallpaper, edit your wallpaper, or play with the transparency settings. </p> <p>After spending a ton of time mixing, matching, and customizing your desktop with Rainmeter, the last thing you want to do is start the process all over again following a system reboot, which, at minimum, you should be performing once a month (Patch Tuesday). And nor do you have to. When you have your desktop just the way you like it, save it as a theme. Right-click and select Themes&gt;Manage Themes. Enter a name in the blank field and click Save. As you play with other themes and skins, you can always return to your custom setup by selecting the saved theme from Themes&gt;Manage Themes. </p> <hr /> <h2>12 Kick Ass Skins</h2> <p>There are a lot of awesome third-party skins to play with, just as there are a lot of duds. To get you started, we're going to show you a handful of our favorites and where you can get them. Have a favorite of your own? Be sure to post it in the comments section below!</p> <h3><strong>Simplicity Black</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="206" /></p> <p align="center"><span style="font-size: xx-small">Image Credit: AKH-Arazand</span></p> <p>Just as the name implies, this is a basic theme decked out in black. Looks great on a light backgrounds, especially Vista's stock green wallpaper, and will save you a ton of time if you're jonesing for all black text but aren't in the mood to go on an editing-frenzy on another theme. It's not nearly as robust as Enigma or some of the other fully fleshed themes, but does include just about everything you need if you're primarily looking for a system monitor, and it includes applets designed for both the Sidebar and Taskbar. And don't forget you can mix and match skins.</p> <p><a href=""> </a></p> <h3><strong>Black Glass</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="334" /></p> <p align="center"><span style="font-size: xx-small">Image Credit: LAvalon</span></p> <p>Another fairly simple skin, Black Glass includes all the components to assemble a high-tech looking sidebar, which it owes to its digital-inspired font. Among the included modules you'll find a calendar, clock, HDD monitor, system monitor, and WinAMP applet. There's also a blank box, which you could edit the size and create a blank slate for a custom sidebar or taskbar.</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <h3><strong>Taranbeer </strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="253" /></p> <p align="center"><span style="font-size: xx-small">Image Credit: mani0008</span></p> <p>Taranbeer provides a variety of system monitors to get you started, but the gem here is the clock, which looks decidedly futuristic. Because of the bright while text, this one looks best on a dark background, and is a great choice to combine with other skins. For an example of how well it meshes with others, check out the Starview theme <a href="">here</a>. </p> <p><a href=""> </a></p> <h3><strong>BlueFeed</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="357" /></p> <p>A must-have for any serious RSS nut, BlueFeed does one thinng and one thing only, and that's serve up RSS feeds in a big way. The blue text on black background is very easy to read, and it comes ready to serve up to anywhere from 10-40 RSS items. Never miss a news story again! </p> <p><a href=""> </a></p> <h3><strong>StickeCalendar </strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="380" height="254" /></p> <p align="center"><span style="font-size: xx-small"><span style="font-size: xx-small">Image Credit: gbernal</span></span></p> <p>A no-frills skin best suited for the office environment, and much friendlier on the forest than those dead-tree tear-away calendars! Comes ready to be configured with an assortment of colors. </p> <p><a href=""> </a></p> <h3><strong>Xpert 2</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="258" /></p> <p align="center"><span style="font-size: xx-small">Image Credit: Gabro</span></p> <p>One of the relatively few skins to include a ton of applets, you'll find just about everything you're looking for in Xpert 2, even applets for the word of the day and quote of the day. But far from a hokey skin, you'll also find a news reader with 63 RSS feeds, some of the best looking system monitoring applets available, clocks, calendars, and plenty more.</p> <p><a href=""> </a></p> <hr /> <h3><strong>Carbon Fiber Meter</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="295" /></p> <p>Carbon Fiber Meter only does two things: Display CPU and Memory usuage. We only wish it threw GPU vitals into the mix, because it's ideally suited for car tweakers and overclockers alike, two hobbies which often run parallel. </p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <h3><strong>Terminator</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="366" /></p> <p>Can't bring yourself to toss out those Terminator VHS tapes? Then this is the skin for you, but you better hurry, because we don't know how long it will be hosted. The main page for the popular Terminator skin no longer shows up on, but the original download link still works (see below), so grab it while you can. Then plaster your desktop with a handful of applets, including the obligatory system monitor and calendar, but also a pretty extensive control panel. In the screenshot above, we plucked a Terminator wallpaper off of Google images and combined the skin with Rainmeter's bundled Wing Firefox theme, which essentially adds the funky looking clock you see in the middle. </p> <p><a href=""> </a></p> <h3><strong>Fade to Black</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="313" /></p> <p>A great looking skin on white backgrounds, Fade to Black offers a respectable number of applets. Not as varied as Enigma or Xpert 2, but in addition to system monitors, email, RSS feeds, and various other odds and ends, Fade to Black throws a curveball by including a tastefully framed image scroller. Configure it to scroll through vacation pictures to help make it through the work day. </p> <p><a href=""> </a></p> <h3><strong>Facebook Notifcations</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="355" height="352" /></p> <p>At this stage in the social networking game, it's a safe bet you're using Facebook, and this skin will allow you to keep tabs on what's going on without checking your account every 15 minutes. Nothing more, nothing less. To configure it, sign into your Facebook account and go to your Notifications page. Under Subscribe to Notifications, click the RSS URL and copy it to your clipboard. Next, open up Facebook.ini from the skin you just downloaded. Under variables, you'll see an entry that reads:</p> <p>URL=CHAANNGEE MEEEE</p> <p>Can you guess what to do? Replace the entry with your notifications RSS feed and don't forget to refresh Rainmeter. </p> <p><a href=""> </a></p> <h3><strong>Tic-Tactual Encapsulated</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="247" /></p> <p>We can't quite put our finger on it, but there's just something about spheres that screams 'high-tech.' That's exactly what Tic-Tactual Encapsulated offers, and while it's a shame there aren't a bunch of applets to play with, you can put the month, date, time, and day of week in separate bubbles. This one works well with just about any sci-fi theme.</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <h3><strong>Seven Dock</strong></h3> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="267" /></p> <p>Hands down one of our favorite skins, Seven Dock is not only highly useful, it's also great for squashing those OCD tendencies. How so? Well, if you were so inclined, you could wipe out all the icons on your desktop, hide the taskbar, and simply make do with a cleanly organized dock. It's fully customizable, from the icons to the shortcuts, though getting it to open directly to My Computer is a little tricky. You'll first navigate to the skin's folder, which is called Mega, not Seven Dock. Open up Mega.ini and scroll down to the FreeCommander entry. It should look like this:</p> <p><strong>Soft13.txt='Disque C' <br />Soft13=!execute [%ProgramFiles%\Custom\FreeCommander\Freecommander.exe</strong></p> <p>This is the entry we want to change, both because we like the icon it's already associated with, and because we're not running FreeCommander. To get it to jump into My Computer rather than your C: drive, here's what you'd change it to:</p> <p><strong>Soft13.txt='My Computer' <br /> Soft13=!execute [%SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /e,::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}]</strong></p> <p>From now own, clicking on the disk icon will open up My Computer. Change the other entries as you see fit, including both the name and location, and replace any of the icons using PNG images sized 265x265 pixels.</p> <p><a href=""> </a></p> customization Desktops features how-tos rainmeter Software Software How-Tos Windows Windows How-Tos How-Tos Tue, 26 Jan 2010 06:00:00 +0000 Paul Lilly 10489 at How-To: Create Custom Windows Shortcuts with AutoHotkey <!--paging_filter--><p>Think about all the time you spend in front on your PC. Are you being efficient? Here’s a better question: Are you being as efficient as you can be? The simple answer is ‘No.’ Every time you lift your fingers off your keyboard to navigate Windows, you’re wasting time. Sure, it only takes a few seconds to drag your mouse cursor over to the Firefox icon or to navigate the Start menu to open up the Control Panel, and while none of that sounds like a big deal, it all adds up over time, be it a week, a month, or a year. The reason Microsoft includes so many shortcuts in Windows is so you can streamline these little time wasters, but these preset hotkeys will only take you so far. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="250" /> </p> <p>That’s where AutoHotkey comes in, a lightweight but powerful app that allows you to create keyboard shortcuts for any Windows program. Here are a few tricks to get you started.</p> <h2>What You’ll Need</h2> <p>•    A PC running Windows 95 or later<br />•    Any keyboard (USB or PS/2)<br />•    USB Flash drive (optional, for portability)<br />•    About 15 minutes</p> <h2>Installation and Setup</h2> <p>You can grab AutoHotkey from <a href=""></a>. There’s not much to the initial installation, so go ahead and leave the default options alone. When you fire it up for the first time, you’re given the option of creating a sample script in the My Documents folder. This isn’t necessary, but it is a good way to familiarize yourself with the basic instructions. In short, the way this works is by creating scripts, which consists of a plain text file containing commands that AutoHotkey.exe will execute.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="189" /> </p> <p>Once installed, create a folder called <strong>AutoHotkey Scripts</strong> on your Desktop or any other place where you want to store your scripts. If you don’t want to clutter your desktop, creating the folder on the root of your C:\ drive will keep the folder out of sight, but still easy to find.</p> <h2>Example: Auto-Launch Firefox</h2> <p>We’re going to create a script that allows us to call up Mozilla’s Firefox browser without ever taking our hands off the keyboard. Keep in mind that while we’re focusing on Firefox in this example, you can adjust the code for any program you want.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="355" /> </p> <p>Open up the scripts folder you just created, right-click anywhere in the empty space, and select New. One of the options in the context menu should now read AutoHotkey Script, and as you’ve probably guessed by now, this is what you’ll select. Name the script Firefox, and then right-click it and select Edit Script.</p> <p>We could dedicate an entire issue to scripting languages, however you don’t need to be a programming guru to follow along. For this one, all you have to do is type<strong> ^#f::Run C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe</strong>. Confused? Let’s break this down. The first part of the code tells AutoHotkey which key combination to use, followed by the Run command, and finally the location of the program we want to run. In this case, we just coded a script to open up Firefox when pressing Control (^), Windows Key (#), and the f key.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="218" /> </p> <p>You can change the key combination to whatever you want. When you’re finished, save your work, close the Window, and then double-click the .ahk file you just edited (Firefox.ahk, in our example). Now the script is loaded and ready to use!</p> <h2>Transform Shorthand into Longhand with Hotstring</h2> <p>In addition to hotkeys, AutoHotkey also makes use of hotstrings, which allows you to bind keystrokes to words or phrases. This comes in especially handy when composing emails, whether it’s typing out an email address or converting your text-speak shortcuts into legible English.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="247" /> </p> <p>Create and edit a new script as previously outlined. We’re going to enclose our shorthand text between pairs of colons followed by the unabbreviated text we want to replace it with. For example, to create a two-letter abbreviation for To Whom It May Concern using the letters ‘tw,’ we would type <strong>::tw::To Whom It May Concern</strong>. This trick also comes in handy for email addresses. Create as many abbreviations as you see fit (use a new line for each), save and exit, and then double-click the .ahk file as before. Your abbreviations will be automatically replaced by the designated text whenever you hit the key combinations (in this case, tw) followed by a space, period, or enter. </p> <hr /> <h2>Example: Create Your Own Media Controls</h2> <p>Don’t fret if your keyboard doesn’t include multimedia controls, because with AutoHotkey, it’s simple enough to create your own. Here’s an example of a script for controlling all facets of multimedia playback using the CTRL+Shift combination:</p> <p><strong>^+m::Send {Volume_Mute}<br />^+.::Send {Volume_Up}<br />^+,::Send {Volume_Down}<br />^+n::Send {Media_Next}<br />^+b::Send {Media_Prev}<br />^+o::Send {Media_Stop}<br />^+p::Send {Media__Play_Pause}</strong></p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="372" /> </p> <p>The coolest part about this is the above controls work with any media player, be it Windows Media Player, WinAmp, or even Napster.</p> <h2>Take Your Scripts with You</h2> <p>It isn’t necessary to install AutoHotkey on every PC you come in contact with. Instead, right-click on any scripts you want to make portable and select Compile Script. AutoHotkey will spit out a related executable that can be run on any Windows-based PC!</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="257" /> </p> automation how-tos Software Software How-Tos Windows Windows How-Tos How-Tos Fri, 22 Jan 2010 16:00:00 +0000 Paul Lilly 10430 at How-To: Add Mouse Gestures to Any Windows Program <!--paging_filter--><p>Remember browsing the Web before mouse gestures? Neither do we. It’s not because we can’t recall that far back, we’ve just chosen to block out any recollection of wading through cyberspace using only the navigation toolbar. How primitive!</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="400" height="267" /> </p> <p>Mouse gestures have become such a popular part of day-to-day Web surfing that it was only a matter of time before someone ported the functionality over to the Windows OS. Enter SrokeIt, a free, open-source utility that brings the magic of mouse gestures to any system running Windows 95 or later.</p> <p align="center"> <img src="" width="499" height="424" /></p> <h2>Step 1: Perform Pre-set Gestures</h2> <p>StrokeIt comes with over 80 mouse gestures out of the box, most of which you’re probably already familiar with from having used Firefox with FireGestures or any other similar add-on. StrokeIt’s gestures are activated in the same manner – just hold down the right-mouse button and perform an action. To navigate left, for example, you would hold down the right-mouse button and drag your mouse to the left. See a <a href="">full list of gesture actions here</a>, and to see a full list of gestures, left-click the StrokeIt icon in the taskbar.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="499" height="424" /> </p> <h2>Step 2: Teach StrokeIt New Actions</h2> <p align="center"><img src="" width="499" height="424" /> </p> <p>In addition to the wealth of actions  StrokeIt already comes configured with, you can also create your own. In this example, we want to create an action for the Step Backward command in Photoshop. Left-click the StrokeIt icon and expand the Photoshop tree in the left-hand pane. Click on File&gt;New Action and name it Step Backward. With the action highlighted, select a gesture from the pull-down menu (we chose Left) and click on the Add Gesture button. Now right-click the action and select New Command. Select Keys – Hotkey from the Configure a Command pull-down menu. Finally, click on the Hotkey field and press CTRL+ALT+Z. You’ve just configured a Step Backward gesture for use in Photoshop!</p> <h2>Step 3: Create Gestures for Complex Passwords</h2> <p>The best passwords consist of a random assortment of alphanumeric characters with both uppercase and lowercase letters. The only problem is the stronger the password, the harder it is to remember. That’s where StrokeIt comes in.</p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="499" height="424" /> </p> <p>Open up StrokeIt and expand the Global Actions tree. Create a new action and name it Password. In the right-hand pane, select Reverse P or any other gesture from the Gestures pull-down menu and click on Add Gesture. Now right-click the new action and click New Command, or press CTRL+N. If you want, give the command a descriptive name, like Banking Password. Highlight the command and select Keys – Password from the Configuration pull-down menu in the right-hand pane, and then enter a strong password. From now on you can use your new gesture rather than manually typing in your super secure password. </p> <p align="center"><img src="" width="405" height="325" /> </p> how-tos Software Software How-Tos strokeit Windows Windows How-Tos How-Tos Thu, 21 Jan 2010 23:30:00 +0000 Paul Lilly 10426 at