Posts Tagged

utility

Video conversion has become a popular topic with me lately. I purchased a Google TV a few months ago, using the device to retire my old HTPC, which ran Windows 7 with Media Center set to launch upon startup. The problem is this — not all of my ripped DVD’s were in a format recognized by Plex, which now serves my home media to the living room.

Since purchasing the Vizio Co-Star, I have been slowly but surely working my way through the re-encoding of almost all of our movies, most of which had been ripped to ISO files in order to retain all of the menus and extras. Unfortunately, Google TV will not allow me to keep those options, but this is not the end of the world — I do not really need them, it was just a nice touch.

My latest experiment is using TEncoder, which is a powerful tool for converting video and audio files from one format to another. The app holds a lot promise, but may not work for every need — more on that later.
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One thing that Microsoft has always excelled at is making its operating system customizable, and what the company does not do, third-party services make up for. Stardock is one of the premier makers and has been especially popular since the release of Windows 8, thanks in large part to bringing back the Start Menu, but it is far from the only one.

This all brings us to BetterDesktop Tool. This app is not for bringing back the long-lost Start Button and Menu, but it certainly brings plenty of functionality along.

Get the App

Head over to the BetterDesktop Tool web site and you will find two choices — there are standard and pro versions, with the Standard option being free. Both versions are contained within the download package. Commercial users must purchase a license and can try BetterDesktopTool Professional Edition free for 30 days. The app is compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.

During the installation process you will be prompted to choose between “Private Usage” and “Commercial Usage (30 Day Trial)”. The app requires only 1.5 MB of free disk space. There are no toolbars or other software included in the app and installation is extremely fast.

The Interface

Only three tabs garner the top of the screen — “Windows and Desktop Overview”, “Virtual-Desktop” and “General”. All have a rather geeky look to them, but they are less scary once you understand what each can do. The app is capable of a lot, but we will hit the highlights here to get you introduced to all of the functionality that BetterDesktop Tool brings along.

Windows and Desktop Overview

This is the first of those geeky looking screens I mentioned, but do not let appearances put you off. It is not as scary as it may at first look. First there are several dropdown menus that allow you to set options, which as Ctrl-Tab or Alt-Tab, for a range of choices, and these can be to not only keystrokes, but also mouse clicks and “hot corners”.

Options

  • Show all windows
  • Show foreground app windows
  • Show desktop
  • Show non-minmized windows
  • Show desktop

Mouse options include the usual – left, middle and right buttons. Hot corners are areas of the screen – top and bottom right and top and  bottom left.

Other options on this tab include “Arrange windows in a regular grid”, “Move all windows to primary screen” and “Show top-level windows only”.

There are also two buttons at the bottom right of the screen — Exclude Window and Reset Excluded Windows. The first will propt you with instructions. “To exclude a window start window-overview (show all windows) and right-click the window you want to exclude. Select the corresponding menu item and the window will be excluded”. The latter button does the opposite.

Visual Desktop

By default, Virtual Desktop is enabled as is “Move windows between virtual-desktops by dragging them to the screen edges for a time”. Howeveryou can disable these and also choose from a number of options.

The “Show virtual desktop” option has similar dropdown menus for keyboard, mouse and hot corners. You can choose what occurs when another application on a virtual desktop gets activated — move it, switch it or make the app global.

“Direct switching” also has options for keyboard shortcuts, as well as moving and switching. Finally, there is an option forthe amount and arrangement of windows that appear on your screen. By default, this is set four – two wide and two high. However, both of these can be changed by clicking the up and down arrows to the right of each number.

General

The “General” tab has six options, the first three of which are enabled by default.

Options

  • Start Program with Windows
  • Check for updates on start
  • Disable all shortcuts when a fullscreen application is running (e.g. games)
  • Disable animation for window, desktop and virtual-desktop overview
  • Ask to restore applications from hidden virtual desktops before shutdown/logoff (blocks shutdown)
  • Enable multitouch-gesture support for designated touchpads

Below this, there are two button at thebottom of the screen — “Check for update” and “About and License”. Both options do exactly as the names describe.

Features

  • Arranges all windows in a non overlapping layout. Allows selection of an arbitrary window to bring it to the foreground.
  • Can be applied to minimized, non-minimized and foreground application windows.
  • Supports Multi-Monitor setups.
  • Moves all windows away from your desktop to give you access to Desktop-Shortcuts and Sidebar-Gadgets.
  • Supports Multi-Monitor setups.
  • Configuration of Mouse and Keyboard shortcuts for all functions.
  • Configuration of Hot-Corners for all functions.
The app works with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. It also requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0, though most users should already have this installed. the program is not compatible with Windows XP. The app will conduct a check for the operating system to notify the user when the software won’t run on his system.

The Verdict

As I said back at the beginning, there are countless applications for customizing Windows. BetterDesktop Tool is perhaps one the better ones, as it allows the user to set all sorts of shortcuts using the the keyboard and mouse and even screen corners. The app is also free and comes with no malware or toolbars that attempt to install themselves in the setup process.

The company also points out that support for window selection by keyboard shortcuts will also follow soon in the next version. The company regularly updates its app, so you can expect to get regular new features and bug fixes.

Like its predecessors, Windows 8 makes customization of the computer mostly easy and, where it lacks, third-party software makers have stepped up and filled in. There are multiple free and paid ways of adding the lost Start button and menu and making numerous other tweaks like adding tabs to Explorer and more. 

As for the desktop and lock screen, customers can use built-in functionality to change the background to any image they wish to use, but the Start screen has a limited number of options — users can only change the color and choose from a limited number of design options.

Enter Stardock. The company makes numerous affordable apps that customers can try and buy to make tweaks to almost every aspect of the Windows 8 operating system.

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The best laid plans often fall by the wayside. You may start off with the intension of keep your files neatly organized so you know where everything is, but how long before you end up with folders called ‘stuff’, ‘misc’ and ‘to sort’ littering your desktop?

With DropIt, all of this could come to an end as your file organisation can be taken care of for you. Now rather than having to drag and drop file after file into suitable folders, you can define rules that sort them for you automatically. Read on to see how this tool could help you out.

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The normal way to manage files is with the Windows File Explorer. Microsoft has improved it with each release of Windows. There are alternatives to the File Explorer that can be used in its place, and Directory Opus, by GPSoftware is the best file manager that I have seen on either Windows, Macintosh, or Linux.

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Your computer is like your room: it’s yours, but other people can still see inside of it. That’s why we have hiding places in our rooms, where only we can find our hidden treasure. Sometimes your computer also has things you’d like to keep hidden, and it’s a hassle trying to figure out how to hide it.

That’s where My Lockbox comes in. My Lockbox is a lot more than a safe your folders, it also hides them from others entirely. Let’s find out if My Lockbox is the right software for your needs!

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We’ve all had those days where we wish our computer was working just a little bit faster. We close all the programs that we aren’t using, but nothing works. That’s where JetBoost comes in!

Whether you need to speed up your computer for intensive graphic / processing work, or you need more available RAM for gaming, JetBoost can be the right solution for almost anyone’s need. Let’s go check it out if this software can help you out.

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Your system is running slow again. Starting up your computer is excruciatingly painful. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that you don’t shut it down for days just to avoid waiting for it to start up. You haven’t cleaned up your registry in a while. You haven’t even cleared out your browsing history since you bought the machine.. You know you need to fix it, but there’s so many problems you don’t even know where to start. Well Wise Care 365 might be for you, because it’ll do everything in one place.

This all-in-one system cleaner can help speed up your computer and clean up your files, leaving you with a fresher and cleaner experience. Read more for the full review and usage walk through.

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There is no shortage of apps out there that purport to give you the nitty-gritty details on what is going on behind the scenes with your computer. That is valuable information to have, given the threats that we all face these days by just signing in, downloading programs and surfing the internet. I recently took a look at Belarc Advisor, which I very much liked, but it is far from the only good one out there and I am always looking to find new and better ways to do things. With that in mind, I decided to give Kiwi System Info a shot and see what it could do.

The app comes from Kiwi Monitor, which makes a series of useful applications and utilities. That gives it promise, but promise does not always pay off these days. With that bit of skepticism in mind let us get started.

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If you are not familiar with it, Rainmeter is a great free app for customizing your Windows desktop. The latest version, 2.5, is now available in beta form and comes with a number of changes and enhancements.

The beta is currently being updated every week — on Sunday to be precise. There are changes and fixes in every new version and a changelog can found on the web site.

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