One of the great things about the Windows platform is the vast range of free software available for the OS, enabling you to do just about anything with a PC at no cost.
Here are some tips on how to achieve some common computing tasks using the simplest apps available.
Resize a Batch of Photos With FastStone Photo Resizer
A lot of people send photos via email or load them on their phones straight out of the camera, meaning they’ll retain their original file sizes of a few megabytes – but unless you’re printing them, your images don’t need to be as large as they are when shot. Just load them into FastStone Photo Resizer all at once, choose your settings and shrink your photos to reasonable dimensions and file sizes in seconds.
To do this, run the app, navigate to your photo folder in the left pane, select the ones you want and click Add (or click Add All to select every image), which puts them in your input list on the right. Check the box below labeled Use Advanced options (Resize…), click Advanced Settings and set the resize parameters (in pixels, by percentage or by the legnth of one side) and hit Convert.
I also recommend setting JPG quality to 90% if you’re using them on screens, and saving your resized images into a separate folder (instead of overwriting) just in case you need the large ones later.
Set Your Wallpaper to Cycle Through a Bunch of Images (Windows 7)
This is a snap and doesn’t even require any additional apps if you’re running Windows 7. Just gather your wallpaper images and place them in a single folder. Then, simply right-click anywhere on your desktop, click on Personalize and then on Desktop background at the bottom of the window. Navigate to your wallpaper folder, select all the images (Ctrl+A) and choose how often you want the wallpaper to change. Hit Save changes and you’re done!
Create MP3 Ringtones with Audacity
To create a MP3 ringtone from a song, drag and drop a MP3 track into Audacity, select the part you want (45 seconds – 1 minute is usually sufficient) and click the Trim button (shown in the screenshot above). Export the selection as an MP3, load it onto your phone and set it as your ringtone.
Rename Multiple Files With Bulk Rename Utility
Bulk Rename Utility does exactly what it says on the box. Once you install the app, you can select multiple files in any folder, right-click and choose Bulk Rename Here to invoke it. The app looks a bit intimidating but it’s actually very simple to use. There are many ways to modify a file name – by adding numbering, prefixes or suffixes (album names or release years, for example), replacing characters or words, changing the extension and appending the folder name, among others.
If you’re anxious about making a mistake, simply copy the files you want to rename into a duplicate folder and then try out the app. You can easily add the rules you want for modify file names by checking the appropriate boxes and entering your parameters. In the example above, I wanted to add my name as a prefix to a set of photos and also add the current year as a suffix and so I’ve entered those details in the necessary fields. When you’re ready, just hit Rename and voilà!
Convert Any File to PDF With DoPDF
Whether you need to send across a résumé, save a web page for offline reading or want to export a document in read-only format, it’s best to go with a PDF. doPDF makes it easy to generate PDFs from any program that allows you to print files. This free app installs itself as a printer on your PC and is really easy to use.
After installing doPDF, all you have to do to export a document as a PDF is click File > Print and then choose doPDF as the printer for the task and hit Print – you’ll be prompted to save the file in a location of your choice. That’s it!
Batch Convert Audio and Video for Various Devices (Freemake Audio and Video Converters)
We’ve covered Freemake’s great conversion apps before, but they’re worth mentioning again because they work so well. To convert an audio file (or a bunch) from any format into another, just install and run Freemake Audio Converter, drag and drop said file(s) into the app and choose a format using the large buttons at the bottom of the window. Next, set your conversion parameters or choose from presets, hit Convert and you’re done!
The process is similar for video – install Freemake Video Converter, drag a video or several into the app and choose a destination format, click Convert and that’s it.
Tag MP3s Properly With MP3Tag
If your MP3 collection is need of some sprucing up, MP3Tag is the tool to reach for. You can drag and drop files or folders into the app and edit tags easily. Select multiple files to edit a field for all of them at once (such as artist, genre or album art).
You can also use actions to achieve complex tagging tasks like case conversion, merging fields, exporting album art, generating tags from file names (and vice versa) and more.
Find Any File on Your PC With Everything
This is the app I recommend to every PC user I meet. Everything is a search engine for files on your PC and it’s rocket-fast. Just download, install and run the app to allow it to index your files.
Once it’s done, type in any kind of search query, including extensions (.exe, .mp3, etc.), parts of file names or folder names and watch Everything return results in the blink of an eye.