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
Building an electronic form isn’t difficult, if you follow the right steps. You need to create an electronic form that’s easy for people to fill out but that can’t be modified by anyone but yourself. No problem. Microsoft Word can handle that challenge. You can create a form in Word complete with the necessary fields, graphics, and other content. You can create a form from scratch but you’ll find it easier to start with a built-in template for a form. From there, you customize the form if necessary. You can control or limit the type of content people can add to a specific field. And you can protect your form so people can’t alter it beyond filling in the fields. Let’s look at how to create a form in Word. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Word’s Find and Replace has a lot of tricks up its sleeve. Here’s how to take advantage of them. You’ve probably used Find and Replace in Microsoft Word to look for misspelled words and other mistakes and replace them with their corrected versions. But there’s more to Find and Replace than just replacing text. You can enable certain options, such as matching the case and looking for whole words. You can find and replace special characters, such as paragraph marks, dashes, and page breaks. You can replace special formatting, including fonts and paragraphs. And you can combine many of these options in one single search. For this article, I’m using Word 2016 as always, but Find and Replace works the same over the past few versions of Word. To start, launch Word and open or create a long document with multiple paragraphs and pages of text. Ideally, the document should contain graphics and special formatting. But if you don’t have such a document, you can still follow along with me. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
Q. I’ve read a lot about two-factor authentication. What is it, do I need it, and what apps will help me get it? Two-factor authentication (2FA) just means that we have a second element of proving who we are when accessing one of our online accounts that supports this feature. That second factor for many people is primarily their smartphone. The most widely used 2FA process involves sending a code via text message to your mobile phone, which you then enter into the website you are trying to access. Some systems also use email to deliver codes for the same purpose. The concept behind this process is that you have already confirmed that you own that smartphone when you provided the phone number to the site via your profile or other 2FA settings. (At that time, you were likely sent a code or link to validate that you have that phone in your possession.) So here’s what happens when you try to access that website after setting up 2FA: You provide your username and password You are sent a code, via text or email depending on the option you selected when setting up 2FA. You enter that into the website … 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
Q. I don’t like the default settings on my Start Menu. How do I change them so my Start Menu better reflects my computing preferences? A. Windows 10 is one of the most customizable versions of Microsoft’s operating system, and it allows you to tweak things so the whole operating system best fits your usage habits. One of the biggest areas of customization is the primary interface to the OS – the Start Menu. Let’s go over the menu settings, which will show how you can make the Windows 10 Start Menu all yours. Start Menu Settings The options for configuring your Start Menu are located at Windows Settings > Personalization > Start. This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.
You can safeguard any data in Excel from a single cell to an entire workbook. Here’s how. You’ve created a spreadsheet in Excel that you plan to share with other people. But you may not want everyone to be able to view, edit, or reformat all the data. No problem. Here’s a list of what you can do: You can protect anything from a lone cell to a full workbook. You can hide a cell, a row, or a column so no one can see it. You can lock a cell so no one can edit it. You can protect the entire worksheet to put your security into effect. You can hide a specific worksheet. And you can protect an entire workbook by marking it as final, encrypting it with a password, or adding a digital signature. As usual, I’m using Excel 2016 via my Office 365 subscription. But the options for protecting your data should apply equally to the prior couple of versions of Excel. To start, open or create a spreadsheet with enough data to stretch several columns and rows. Make a copy of that worksheet so you have more than one sheet. Change some of the data … 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.
Mail merge can save you plenty of time when you need to address multiple envelopes or labels. You have envelopes or labels that you want to address to many people. You can do that individually, or you can do it much quicker through a mail merge in Word. The mail merge feature lets you create an envelope or a series of labels and then merge that file with dozens, hundreds, or thousands of names and addresses. Using a list or table of names, you populate your envelope or labels with fields to insert each name and address. But Word’s mail merge can be tricky. How can you use it simply and effectively? Let’s check it out. I’m using Word 2016 here, but mail merge is available in any version of Word and works the same over the past few versions of the program. You can merge different types of files, including email messages, documents, and directories. But envelopes and labels are the most common formats for a mail merge, so we’ll focus on those. If you want to try out a mail merge on your end, you’ll need a list of names and addresses stored in a Word table, an … Read More