Out of the legion of free, shareware, and commercial utility software I have installed over the years on various versions of Windows, there are a mere handful of ultimately indispensable programs that I use almost daily. I’m going to share the five free utilities which I would pay for if I had to. These perform what Windows built-in apps cannot do: handle screenshots perfectly; play any format of video and audio; completely uninstall apps with no orphan code; create boilerplate phrases and macros for one button execution; and guard against ransomware infections. All are free and some come with optional, more robust paid versions. Here’s why they’re so great. PhraseExpress Eliminates Repetitive Typing I have been using Bartel Media’s PhraseExpress since version 3. As of 2016 it is up to version 12. And just like anything Microsoft, with each iteration more and more features – too many to count and maybe use – get added in. The main purpose of PhraseExpess is to create boilerplate templates, text snippets and canned responses, all activated with simple one-to-three key combos. One of the problems I had with the simpler early versions was the need to have to memorize all the key combos … Read More
You can protect your Word documents from prying eyes and itchy fingers. You’ve created a critical Word document, one that you wish to keep private or that you want to share with only certain people. But perhaps you don’t want others to be able to edit the document, and you certainly don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands. How can you protect your document? Word offers a few options: You can finalize the document to alert people not to edit it. You can encrypt the document with a password so only people who know the password can access it. You can restrict the type of editing others can perform on the document. You can add a digital signature to the document to ensure that no one can tamper with it. And you can employ more than one of these tactics to truly secure your document. Let’s look at the many ways you can protect your Word documents. As always, I’m using Word 2016 here, but the options for protecting a document are the same for the prior couple of versions of Word. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to … Read More
Voice assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home are suddenly everywhere — but can they really up your productivity? We have advice on choosing one, and tips on using it to make life easier. It looks like 2018 is set to be the year that voice assistant devices become truly mainstream. The Amazon Echo Dot was the best selling item on Amazon.com, across all categories, during the 2017 holiday season. And in early 2018, Google announced that a Google Home device had been sold every second since October 19. Both devices and their respective software — Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant — were everywhere during CES earlier in January, indicating that current sales figures are just the start of the sector’s potential. But what can a voice assistant do for you in the home or office, other than play playlists or podcasts? And can it really make you more productive, in a world where we’ve already got smart phones, smart watches, and tablets at our disposal? Here’s a look at what the devices can do, with tips from users, and how to decide which system is best for you. Choosing the Right Assistant for You First of all, how do … Read More
Q. How can I connect my Android phone with Windows 10? A. Sharing between all your devices is becoming a very necessary part of both work and recreational use these days. The cloud and your Microsoft Account help make the connections easy so that setup is not a hindrance to being flexible with how you need to work with your files and documents. While there is the possibility to connect both your iOS and Android devices into this ecosystem, the capabilities are different for each platform. I use the Samsung Galaxy S8 as my smartphone so that is the basis of my experience and what I will share here today because that is my frame of reference. It is possible to connect a compatible Android smart phone to Windows 10. Let’s walk through how. Begin the process from Windows Settings > Phone on Windows 10 Fall Creators Update or beyond. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Your Word Tables can look better if you know how to properly format them. You probably already know how to create tables in Microsoft Word. But formatting them is another matter. Formatting a table not only gives it the right look but can also make it easier to use. Maybe you’ve struggled with table formatting in the past, or perhaps you’d just like to learn all the different ways you can format a table. Your options abound in Word. You can create a table with a certain layout. You can apply border styles either to the whole table or to individual rows or columns. And you can give your table a snazzy new look by selecting an entire table style. Let’s go over the process for formatting tables in Microsoft Word. As always, I’m using Word 2016 through my Office 365 subscription. But the process for formatting tables is similar across the past few versions of Word. Let’s start by launching Word with a blank new document. Click on the Insert ribbon and then click on the Table button. Word offers three ways to create a table. You can insert a table by moving your mouse cursor over a specific … Read More
Q. I don’t want to be one of those people who learns too late that they should have backed up their home computer. I need a crash course in how to get my Windows 10 machine backed up regularly — preferably without requiring buying a backup service. Thanks! A. “You don’t want to realize you need a backup when you actually need a backup.” It happened to me once and I swore to never again be caught without a backup plan. It happened to my wife’s computer and that added even more stress to the situation because she lost some very important personal work when that solid-state drive failed on her PC. Since those incidents, I started using features in Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service. That allowed me to sync our data directories including Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, etc., across all our devices. While not a true backup, the service syncs changes between devices and the cloud, OneDrive does offer access to a recycle bin through the web portal along with file version history that would allow you to retrieve an inadvertently deleted or changed file. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click … Read More
AMD Chips Now Cleared for Updating Microsoft has now prepared a fixed update that won’t BSOD computers running the AMD chip set and thus have begun to rerelease the update. If you were impacted by the AMD BSOD, hopefully you have a second computer handy as you need to download KB4073290 from the Microsoft catalog site and then … well I’m honestly not sure what you can do if the machine in question has a BSOD and won’t boot. The only way I’m aware to install a patch on an un-bootable machine is to use the DISM commands at a boot prompt to install the update. You would type in Dism /Add-Package /PackagePath: [/IgnoreCheck] [/PreventPending] and insert the location where you downloaded the windows10.0-kb4073290-x64_5119daced3c80d539e79cf52a5fb5bc9cea61eb8.msu. I honestly think it’s easier and safer to perform a system refresh whereby the Windows 10 reinstalls the operating system but does not damage any data files. I’d honestly recommend that you download and create a windows 10 bootable image flash drive so that should something happen — for any reason — you have the tools at hand to take care of your machine. I would suggest going to this link, and create a Windows installation … Read More
This year at CES, voice-activated personal assistants were everywhere. Here, I’ll run down the ones I saw and where they’re likely to pop up in your house. Google Assistant Most ubiquitous was Google’s Assistant, because it was showing up all along the Las Vegas Strip — on billboards, on the sides of buildings, various kiosks, and plastered on every car of the Las Vegas Monorail. You would even find overall-clad members of the Google Assistant army throughout the CES show floor, most commonly in booths offering products that integrated Google’s Assistant. For many, this visibility won the show for Google — but we also know that Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa is well out in front both for sales of units and in its skills library. Amazon Alexa The aforementioned Alexa didn’t have an aggressive marketing blitz backing it but it had a significant presence on the show floor. The number of products that are incorporating Alexa into their capabilities is nearly untrackable. It ranged from automobiles, smart mirrors, desktop wireless charging stands, Internet of Things, Smart Homes, televisions, refrigerators, air conditioners, pet feeders, and even smaller gadgets like headphones and smart watches. This article is part of our premium content. … Read More
You can do a lot more in Excel than just add up numbers. Excel is designed to help you create formulas to perform a variety of different calculations and tasks. But formulas can be intimidating. You probably already know how to auto sum numbers and handle basic calculations. But there’s more to formulas than just the basics. Here’s what you can do with them. You can multiply, subtract, divide, and average numbers. You can see the minimum and maximum numbers in a column or row. You can include different types of calculations in a single formula. You can also use absolute cell references in your formulas to keep certain numbers constant. Let’s look at how to work with formulas in Excel. I’m using Excel 2016 as my test subject, but the steps I describe here apply equally to the previous few versions of the program. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Beware, AMD chip owners. For you Windows Secrets readers who have computers with AMD inside, these Spectre/Meltdown patches are causing more issues than they are preventing. So much so that Microsoft has halted release of the updates on machines that have AMD chipsets. Some of the relevant security posts include the following: Microsoft’s KB4073707 on the issues with AMD chip sets and how Microsoft is blocking the patches until the issue is resolved. Microsoft’s KB4073757 recapping the overall guidance Let’s recap the big picture: Intel CPU chips have a bug in their very architecture. Researchers found a way for attackers to possibly steal passwords and other confidential information from our machines. As of publication, the attack has not been used in the wild. However, the potential is there and it’sreally concerning up in cloud servers as it could mean that fellow virtual servers could read information from a tenant next door. It won’t be enough to patch for the Windows operating system, you’ll need to patch the firmware on your computer as well. It’s not a Microsoft bug, but because everything uses CPUs, pretty much everything needs to be patched ranging from phones to firewalls. So after you get your … Read More