Tag Archives: Windows

Words Without Toolbars

Sometimes we just have to get a lot of writing done in a short amount of time and we don’t want distractions. Maybe it’s your family holiday newsletter, a big work report,  a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo, or a thesis or dissertation. Stuff needs to get done.

Full-featured word-processing programs are around to handle everything from a grocery list to a complicated mutli-page advertising brochure. But with more power comes more toolbars, windows, widgets and other user interface elements floating around your screen all trying to pull your attention.

If you need to knuckle down and crank it out, consider a free or cheap text editor or minimalist word processors that puts less stuff in the way between you and words. Once you get that first draft banged out, then you can go back to your standard word-processor for editing and formatting.

Want cheap? Just fire up the free text editor that came with your operating system, like Notepad or Wordpad for Windows or TextEdit on the Mac. These programs may have basic toolbars for formatting things like type styles, but overall, there’s not a lot of extras. But maybe you want something with a little more power under the hood, like the ability to sync with your online storage site of choice. To get a sampling of the many options out there, fire up your search engine and look for a variation of minimal word processors or distraction-free text editors. Here are a few to consider:

  • Notepad Classic or Notepad Next (Free for Windows 8 and Windows 10). A free, customizable old-school text editors from the Windows Store. Notepad Next works on mobile devices as well as on PCs.
  • Writer (Free for the Google Chrome browser). The free Writer extension for Chrome  calls itself a big Internet typewriter. It asks you to create an account and displays a classic fullscreen plain-text window in which to start composing. You also get basic tools like a word counter and can customize the look of the interface. Documents can be exported as text or PDF files.
  • OmmWriter Dana II ($5.11 for Windows, Mac, iOS for iPad). The program wants to be your private little writing space within the confines of your computer— where you can really focus on your work. While the user interface goes minimalist, the program does provide soothing background colors and audio soundtracks to sooth your mind so you can write.
  • Write! ($25 for Windows, Mac and Linux). In addition to a simple interface for composing your thoughts, Write! gives you cloud syncing, progress trackers, unlimited undos, a smart spellchecker and a bucket of other features.
  • WriteRoom ($10 for Mac). This Mac app is another full-screen writing environment that dumps ribbons, button and menus. If you first started using computers back in the 1980s, you can go retro and opt for the familiar old VDT green-text-on-black color scheme with a blinking cursor to get you going.

Once you pick a word processor that doesn’t drag your eyeballs away, go hardcore if you really need to get something done: Unplug your computer’s network connection — or just want until all the unsecured DVRs and webcams take down the Internet again. Sweet productivity at last!

PTJ 208: Safety Patrol

The crisp fall air has returned to the Northeast, as do memories of sipping apple cider in front of a roaring fire. Unfortunately for some, the only fire around was coming from their replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones…

On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. wrangle the week’s headlines, including the latest from the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Inferno, a new coat for Microsoft Paint and Sprint’s efforts to close the digital divide for low-income high-school students. El Kaiser discusses proper electronics safety and J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on how to find out what other household products might be problematic. Now, where are those marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers?

Lithium-Ion Battery Information

Battery University
• Why Lithium Batteries Keep Catching Fire
• How Lithium-Ion Batteries Work

Links to This Week’s News Stories

PTJ 197: Parks, Recreation and Lots of Tech News

This week El Kaiser revisits Audioquest’s Dragonfly USB DAC, preamp and headphone amp. This new version of the thumb drive sized device improves on its predecessors and finally ditches black for fire engine red. Also on this episode,  J.D. prepares us for the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. National Parks Service and Pedro joins her for a rundown of the biggest tech news of the week.

It’s on like Donkey Kong!

 

PTJ 187 News: Standards & Practices

Facebook mess with the News Feed? Really!?!  But seriously, according to Mashable and a few other sites, images of a new tabbed news feed screen for mobile devices have been spotted on Twitter. Facebook did confirm that it is indeed testing the new design, but did not say if or when it would actually launch.

YouTube is stepping up its virtual-reality game with a couple of new features. As announced on the company blog, YouTube is introducing 360-degree live streaming on the site, which adds on to last year’s support for uploaded 360-videos. YouTube also launched spatial audio for on-demand videos. If you want to hear what all that means, check out the company’s special spatial audio playlist for Android devices.

siriWe’re just about a month away from Google’s annual I/O developer’s conference, and now Apple has finally gotten around to announcing when its own World Wide Developer’s Conference. The first word on the dates for some people, however, did not come from an email announcement, but from the Apple’s Siri virtual assistant, as the 9to5Mac site reported. A press release on Apple’s website confirms it all Apple fans are already murmuring about the show, wondering if OS X will be renamed macOS to fall better in line with iOS, tvOS and watchOS.

Apple didn’t wait for its next big media event to make new hardware announcements, though. This Tuesday, it quietly updated its 12-inch Macbook laptop model with better hardware on the inside.  The laptop is available in a few different processor and storage configurations and comes in four colors now: Gold, Silver, Space Gray and Rose Gold. And in other news, Apple has hired a former vice president of vehicle engineering from Tesla. The company also killed off QuickTime for Windows and the Department of Homeland Security has advised PC users to uninstall it RIGHT AWAY.

In legal news, it appears that Google’s massive book-scanning project that triggered a copyright lawsuit buy an author’s group is in the clear. The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge from the Authors Guild over the legality of the Google Books project, so last year’s lower court ruling from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York stands.

Also in Google news, the company’s Android Security 2015 Annual Report was released this week.  The company touts its monthly security updates, better screening for potentially harmful apps in the Google Play store and greater adoption of its app verification service as factors in making Android devices safer than before, but it notes that there are still a steady number of malware, ransomware and other nasty apps lurking out there.

Speaking of software and malicious intentions, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the machine-learning startup company PatternEx have come up with a new system predicts 85 percent of cyber attacks.

Amazon is taking a shot at Netflix’s monthly streaming fees by making its own Amazon Prime service available as, you guessed it, a monthly subscription instead of an annual fee. And speaking of Netflix, that company is raising its monthly fees by 25 percent for longtime streaming customers next month.

Yahoo’s deadline for financial suitors to present themselves has come and gone and Verizon has emerged as the only major player to maintain interest in the sagging company.

murphyMicrosoft introduced Skype video bots a few weeks ago for developers and consumers to interact with and announced this week that the bots are now available for Mac and web users. Some of the stock bots available include Murphy, a bot to find and create images for when questions can’t be answered by words alone and Summarize, a bot designed to give an overview of a web page if you don’t have time to read the whole thing.

As expected, the  Name That Research Ship contest over in the United Kingdom has ended and Boaty McBoatface won in a tidal wave. However, UK Science Minister and total buzzkill Jo Johnson told BBC Radio 5 Live this week that “there is a process now for us to review all of the public’s choices. Many of them were imaginative; some were more suitable than others.” Even if the RSS Boaty McBoatface never sails the seas as a government science ship, the contest did inspire an Australian racehorse owner in Sydney to name one of his geldings Horsey McHorseface and an English rail worker temporarily named the Portsmouth to Waterloo line Trainy McTrainface.

And finally, if you love NASA and you live vintage graphic design and branding standards, you can now buy a copy of the space agency’s official graphics manual first published in 1976. The book is 220 pages with 129 image plates and comes individually packages in a static-shielding pouch. This is actually a reissue of the original book, of which only 40 copies were originally printed. The new version is a Kickstarter project that can now be ordered only for $79 a copy.

If you’re on a bit of a tight budget, however, you can download a free PDF copy of the original manual from NASA’s website and print it yourself because hey, it’s a taxpayer-funded government agency. And after just staggering through another tax season, we’ll take all the perks we can get.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Patched In

Ah, the first half of the month, when rents are traditionally due and software is often patched. But while these program fixes and security updates are meant to fix problems in software, they can sometimes create even more problems.

Take for example, the recent iOS 9.3.1 patch that was intended to fix the crashing-links problem — but inadvertently created a security exploit on some iPhones. Or Google’s patch last year that was supposed to repair the Stagefright-sized hole in Android but didn’t cover everything the first time around. You win some, you lose some.

Now, many people just get an update notice and install whatever software arrives with the notifications. Or they have automatic updates turned on — and pay even less attention. Patches are generally a good thing and designed to keep your computer and data safe. But if you’re the type that wants to know what’s going on your hardware (or what scary thing you’re being protected from now), hit up the support area of the manufacturer’s website for detailed notes.

Here are a few of the major players:

  • Adobe Security Bulletins and Advisories. Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader are two of the most hacker-targeted pieces of software out there, and so security updates to sew up those holes are issued regularly. Find your Adobe product on the list and click through for the details on each update.
  • Apple Security Updates. Apple makes a lot of system software, including OS X, iOS, tvOS, watchOS and all its in-house applications, and you can find information about everything security-related here. Links on the site also take you to the downloads and supporting documentation, in case you didn’t let your Mac update the software automatically (or your iOS device, for that matter).
  • Microsoft Security Tech Center. Thanks to decades of Windows, the Redmond giant is an old pro at the security-update game. The company celebrates with new bugfix releases on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of every month. All the latest security bulletins are posted there so you can read up and see what’s getting fixed this time. (The site is a little techie, but Microsoft has a Safety & Security Center site written for less-technical home users as well.)

Additionally, Amazon’s site has a Device Support page for its various Kindle, Echo and Fire hardware, along with information about software updates.

All updated with nothing to read now? Microsoft’s next Patch Tuesday is next week, so you don’t have long to wait.

 

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Wearing the Wire

There may come a time when you want to move big files between your phone or tablet — and not over a wireless connection. Maybe the files are huge and your network is slow, maybe there’s no secure wireless network available or maybe you want the privacy and intimate connection that only a USB cable can bring to the computer-mobile gadget relationship.

If you’ve been living the carefree wireless life and have never copied files over the wire before, here’s how — and you don’t even have to root your phone. (Unless you want to, that is.)

If you use a Windows PC and have phone or tablet running a fairly recent version of Android, you pretty much just have to find the USB cable that shipped with your device and connect the two. Windows recognizes the Android gadget and usually gives you a choice of USB connection types: MTP, or Media Transfer Protocol is the one you want. Your other option is PTP, short for Picture Transfer Protocol, and yes, you can use that to pull photos off your phone or tablet if your computer’s operating system doesn’t support MTP.

AndroidUSB
win8nexus

Now what computer system wouldn’t support MTP? Oh yes, OS X. (Because Apple.) On the Mac, if you want to copy videos and other large files from your Mac to your Android device, one fairly easy way to do it is to get the free Android File Transfer program for Mac, which you can download from Google. This is what it looks like:

osxnexus

Don’t like what you see? Go shopping. On the Android, side, file managers have been around for year, thanks to Google’s more open approach. One of the more popular Android-side apps, ES File Explorer, can also move files to Windows, but you can find plenty of apps in the Google Play store.

Now, as for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch players, there’s the fact that Apple keeps the iOS system largely hidden. Sure, you can sync over photos, videos, documents, apps and music by using iTunes for OS X or Windows, but not everybody likes or uses iTunes.

In that case, you, too, can find third-party apps and programs that let you do a deeper level of file management. Just rev up your search engine.

Although it’s a little spendy, there’s iExplorer for Windows or Mac (shown here), which lets you move not only music and movies between device and desktop, but other stuff like your iPhone’s text messages and voicemails. TouchCopy for Windows or Mac can harvest most of the content off your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and pull it over to the computer — there’s a demo version and the full one runs between $25-$30, depending on if there’s a sale.

iexplorer

You may not need to whip out the USB cable for every little thing, but it sure comes in handy when you want to move that 500 megabyte home-ripped video file from your computer to your mobile device before you hit the road. And since the same cable is often used to charge up your phone or tablet anyway, odds are, it’s close by. Have fun slingin’ the files!

PTJ 119: Giving Thanks For Star Wars Trailers And Keyboard Shortcuts

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us here in the United States the team at PTJ HQ can’t thank you all enough for supporting us so passionately over these last few years. Both J.D. and I don’t have plans of stopping any time soon since we continue to have a wonderful time doing the show. We promise to keep serving up our special brand of insight and shenanigans—along with the occasional surprise—if you promise to keep coming back for more.

A very special thanks to the BROS!

When we say we wouldn’t be here without them that is a 100% accurate statement. They convinced us to make the leap to doing the show on our own and have supported us every step of the way.  A heartfelt bushel of gratitude from all of us at HeadStepper Media and Pop Tech Jam!

This week on the show, J.D. is thinking of linking and shares a slew of helpful keyboard shortcuts with us. In the news the FCC reaches an agreement with T-Mobile about their throttling practices; the Federal Aviation Administration is prepares a set of new rules for commercial drones; the European Union is expected to vote on breaking up Google’s business; Apple sees (RED); the United States and the United Kingdom are suspects behind a sophisticated series of cyber attacks against the European Union; Barbie (and Mattel) **** it up again; and the first teaser trailer of  Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters this weekend.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Shortcuts to Shortcuts

Tablets and smartphones may be making a lot of our productivity mobile, but for some people, getting work done means sitting down in front of a real physical keyboard and pounding those keys until the job is done. (And yes, this counts even if you add a Bluetooth keyboard to your tablet or phone.)

To make things even faster for repetitive tasks like formatting or navigation, many programs include keyboard shortcuts that save you the mousework and move things along. Some programs even let you add your own custom shortcuts, which can be handy, say, if you’re a southpaw and find the defaults awkward — or there’s an obscure menu command that has no built-in shortcut.

Sure, you can look in the Windows or OS X menus to see the shortcuts listed, but that can be time-consuming until you start remembering them. If you don’t know a lot of the commands off the top of your head, here’s the Pop Tech Jam roundup of keyboard quickies for common operating systems and popular programs.
Print ’em out and go.

Operating Systems

Productivity Suites

Webmail

Browsers

Social Media

Music & Multimedia

Adobe Creative Software

Want to see the all the shortcuts at once? Printable crib sheets listing Windows shortcuts can be found around the web with a quick search. Mac utilities like CheatSheet (free) and Dashkards stick with the stock shortcuts, but display them in an easy-to-read format on screen, KeyCue does the same thing with more customization options, but charges 20 euros for the full version.

If mere keyboard shortcuts aren’t enough, programs that let you use hotkeys to create and run your own macros can give your productivity an even bigger boost. Check out Hotkey Utility for Windows or AutoHotKey (also for Windows). Similar programs for Mac users include the $30 QuicKeys or iKey (also $30).

Siri, Cortana and OK Google aside, computing is still mostly a hands-on activity on one form or another. So until we get the next great input system in place, speeding up your clicks with the keys is one way to make the most of your time.

PTJ 114: This One’s For The Apple Lovers

If you aren’t a fan of the Cupertino-based, fruit-themed toymaker you may not want to listen to this episode. Of course you’ll miss out on all the fun (and maybe even a shenanigan or two) if you do but we won’t judge.  We’d be enormously disappointed if you din’t listen but don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. No, these aren’t tears. It’s just our allergies acting up…

This week El Kaiser kicks the tires on Apple’s Yosemite and J.D. takes the latest version of iTunes out for a spin.

In the news Google has some big announcements of its own as they unveil Android Lollipop and some new hardware to go with it;  Apple rolls out a new iPad lineup and an iMac with a 5K Retina display; HBO and CBS make cord cutters very, very happy; Staples is the latest retailer to suffer an apparent hack attack; and Marty McFly’s hoverboard makes the scene a full year earlier than expected.