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Posted on May 27, 2015 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 24 – Data sharing difficulties and Windows 10 Insider Preview

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TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 24

Welcome to the May 2015 TWT Newsletter

It has been another month of exciting new Windows 10 news and we have a write up of some of the new features of the latest preview build at the end of the newsletter. For our main article this month I decided to concentrate on one modern IT issue that affects business and home users more and more, and that could easily be solved but just hasn’t been! Read on to find out more.

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In this months issue:-

What’s new at
Sharing data between devices – Why is it still so difficult?
Tip of the Month – Power up that Print Screen key
Free Utility of the Month – Pidgin
Windows Store App of the Month – Metro Commander
Windows 10 Update – The Insider Preview launches

What’s new at

In April we took a look at an excellent tool for reclaiming hard drive space called Easy Duplicate Finder. Easy Duplicate Finder were kind enough to sponsor the newsletter last month, so be sure to check out this excellent program if you haven’t done so already.

After last months Skype updates we thought it was a good time to take a look at a popular, free and open source alternative, so we created four new tutorials for Jitsi, the open source VOIP program with a strong focus on privacy.

picture Jitsi – Four Tutorials.

If you want a secure, open source and free alternative to Skype that takes your privacy seriously, then you should definitely give Jitsi a go. Jitsi is an instant messaging, video and voice chat client with super strong privacy safeguards. Using Jitsi, you can chat wherever you are in the world without worrying about eavesdroppers. Check out the first of our four tutorials on Jitsi by clicking here.

picture Easy Duplicate Finder – Three tutorials

Easy Duplicate Finder is an easy to use but extremely powerful little tool that can help save space on your PC by finding and removing duplicate files. It’s smart enough to know if a file is the same even if the filename is different and has several strategies for dealing with duplicates. Check out the first of our three tutorials on the program by clicking here.

Sharing data between devices – Why is it still so difficult?

In a recent Microsoft promotional video, we see how the Redmond company hopes the near future of Windows and computing devices pan out. It’s a compelling vision that brings together a lot of the technologies Microsoft have invested in, watch it for yourself here.

In the video, we see lots of very trendy looking individuals working with a host of different computing devices, from PCs to tablets to huge touch screens to augmented reality devices. In the video they’ll confidently swipe documents from one device to another with a swish of a finger. If only it could work like that in real life! How many of us now have two or more computing devices? I’m talking about a smartphone and a laptop, or perhaps a smartphone, desktop PC and a tablet? Even if all your devices are running Windows, how easy is it to quickly send a webpage you’re viewing on your phone directly to your PC? That’s not a trick question, it isn’t easy at all!

While we wait for an app to make Microsoft’s future that bit closer, we’re stuck with some slightly less elegant workarounds for getting all our devices working together more seamlessly. We’ll look at a few ways that can help you get the most out of your devices and improve your productivity.

E-mail – While e-mail might be old and insecure, it still has its place in most peoples lives as an almost universal means of contacting anyone with an online presence. Every device supports e-mail and luckily getting your inbox synchronised across devices isn’t difficult at all. If you use a serivce like Google Mail, you could use the Gmail app on your phone then simply log into Gmail on the web on your PC. Alternatively, if you’d rather use your phones own e-mail application, or a dedicated e-mail app on your PC like Windows Mail, Thunderbird or Outlook, you only need configure your account for IMAP access. Instructions on how to do this for Gmail are here, while instructions for Hotmail/ users can be found here.

Website bookmarks or favourites – There are lots of services that can synchronise and backup your bookmarks. If you use Windows 8 on all of your devices (including your phone) then Windows can automatically save any bookmarks you make into your Microsoft account. You need to sign on using a Microsoft account in order to do this. If you prefer Apple for your mobile devices, you can now use iCloud for Windows too. Both of these services only synchronise bookmarks from Internet Explorer. Google Chrome users can opt to use Google’s own cloud storage service to save their Chrome bookmarks between PC and smartphone devices. If you prefer to switch between browsers and devices, we’d recommend looking at Diigo instead, which is probably the most powerful bookmarking tool on the web.

Notes – If you’re still using post-it notes or simply firing up Notepad in Windows to keep your notes then you’re really missing out. The two best alternatives are Evernote and Microsoft’s own OneNote. Both of these programs are available for a wide range of platforms, including Windows Desktop, Windows 8 Tile/Modern, Windows Phone, Mac OS, Android and iOS (though sadly not Linux). Which one you prefer is largely a matter of taste. Both programs will store your notes, back them up in the cloud and synchronise them between all your devices. You can type up a shopping list at the comfort of your PC and have it instantly transfer to your phone for when you are at the store. Take a photo of a business card while you’re out and about then have the information at your fingertips when you get back to the office.

Photos – There are a number of services that can be used to make sure photos on your phone are available instantly on your desktop. Again, with Windows 8 and Windows phone your pictures can be synchronised between your devices as long as you log on with the same Microsoft account on all your devices. Apples iCloud device can do the same thing for your Apple products and the Windows desktop. You can also use services like Dropbox or OneDrive to store photos or other files in the cloud and access them from any internet connected device.

There are also dedicated photo sharing services online, such as Flickr and the now super popular Instagram. Both of these services have apps for your smartphone or mobile devices where you can upload all your photos (or just the ones you want to share). On your PC, you can then access the services through the web or, on Windows 8 machines, through Flickrology or Instapic.

Office work – Need to collaborate on a document with colleagues or simply have access and be able to edit something from both your smartphone and your PC? There are two alternatives here. Google docs provides a simple but relatively powerful office suite with full cloud collaboration features. You can access your Google Docs wherever you have a web browser, or with a dedicated app for Android and iOS devices.

If you need something a little more powerful, then you should check out Office 365 Business which, for £7 a month, not only gives you the full Microsoft Office suite for your PC, but the full Office Online suite too, letting you work in the best, most convenient fashion no matter where you are in the world. Again, all your documents (or just those you choose) can be stored with Office Online and accessed anywhere you have an internet connection.

If all else fails – If you simply need to get a snippet of text, a web address or anything through from your phone to your PC or vice versa, don’t forget you can simply e-mail it to yourself. An e-mail you send to yourself will show up in your inbox a few seconds later. As long as you can access your inbox from both devices, you’ve successfully shared the data. It’s hardly the slick future vision Microsoft presented though.

Finally, before we wrap up a word of warning. Storing data in the cloud is super convenient, but also comes with some risks. Many of the services we have touched on here do not come with strong privacy safeguards. Keep this in mind before you share sensitive documents in the cloud, even when there’s no public link to your pictures, bookmarks or other files you should not assume that they can’t be accessed by a third party.

Tip of the Month – Power up that Print Screen key

Do you know what the Print Screen (sometimes labelled Prt Scr SysRq) key on your keyboard does? If you said “It prints the screen!” then you would have been right if this was still the 80s. These days, when many PCs don’t have printers any more, the Print Screen key helps you take a screenshot. Press it now and see what happens, nothing?, well that’s because you need to open Paint, or your favourite graphics package and then choose “Paste”. You should now see a screenshot appear on your canvas. We cover this technique in our PC basics section here.

There are a few other neat little things you can do with the Print Screen key too. Want to save the screenshot directly to a file? Simply press and hold the Windows logo key then press and release the Print Screen key. The picture will then be saved directly to your pictures folder. Want to take a snap of only the active window? Press and hold the “Alt” key then press and release the Print Screen key.

What if you’re using a Windows tablet and don’t have a keyboard attached? In this case, use the Windows button on your tablet and the volume down button together. Try to press them at the same time, otherwise the Windows button will simply take you back to the Start screen.

Free Utility of the Month – Pidgin

Instant messaging programs come and go, but we still find ourselves coming back to Pidgin for the bulk of our IM conversations. Pidgin is a multi-protocol chat program that lets you chat to your friends on the AOL, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, IRC and XMPP/Jabber networks, as well as a ton more, with more added all the time thanks to third party developers.

It may not be the most fancy program you run, but Pidgin is free, ad-free and super stable. For those of us still using the old-school IM and chat networks, it’s as indispensable as ever.

Windows Store App of the Month – Metro Commander

If you’re using a Windows tablet you probably love how you’ve got a whole, fully functional Windows PC in a tablet form factor. You’ve also probably found yourself struggling to copy or move the occasional file on the desktop, wishing you could use a mouse instead of your finger. Those of you with tablets that can use a stylus pen will find the desktop less frustrating, but still hardly optimal. If you need to bring some of that desktop power to the touch interface then you should check out Metro Commander. Metro Commander is a fully touch optimised file browser and manager for Windows 8 devices. With this tool installed, you can comfortably browse files on your PC and on your local network, as well as files hosted on several popular cloud storage networks. You can copy, move, delete and view most types of files all without needing the desktop.

An essential tool for Windows touch power users, grab yourself a copy of Metro Commander here. You can choose between a free, ad-supported version or pay £6.19 for the ad-free professional edition.

Windows 10 Update – The Insider Preview launches

Windows 10 took a big step forward last month with the launch of the “Insider Preview” build. After the previous build seemed barely usable on our PC, it’s more reassuring that the latest Insider Preview actually seems relatively stable, at least by preview software standards anyway.

In the latest build, Microsoft have made some further refinements and changes. The new Start Menu is transparent, harking back to those days of Windows 7s beautiful (but battery guzzling) Aero Glass interface. There’s a whole new selection of system sounds and the notification centre has had a bit of a makeover too, going from white to black.

The new build gives a tantalising glimpse at some of the improved apps too. The new Windows calendar app (shown here on the right, click the image to see a bigger version) is particularly impressive. The whole app has had a facelift and looks fantastic. Support for synchronising with Google calendars is back and the app integrates slickly with the People and Mail apps too. Crucially, this is one of the first apps we’ve seen that really feels at home on both desktop PCs and touch screens.

The maps app has had a significant update too, bringing it more in line with the excellent Nokia mapping and navigation applications available on Windows phones. Now, for instance, driving directions can be seen on a 3D map view (though there still doesn’t seem to be turn by turn navigation instructions).

The latest build of Windows 10 finally includes the new “Spartan” web browser, shown here on the left running our website (click the image to see a bigger version). Internet Explorer is still available in Windows 10 but now only seems to operate in desktop mode. Spartan on the other hand is a true unified app, which, like the calendar app, runs well for both keyboard and mouse and touch screen users. While we’re not sure if we’d be willing to give up our dedicated desktop browsers just yet, Project Spartan is probably the most fully featured touch compatible app we’ve seen so far, managing to duplicate almost all of the core Internet Explorer functionality in a so called “modern” app. The program is far from stable yet and did lock up a number of times when we were using it, but it certainly shows promise.

Speaking of technical problems, there are still plenty of gremlins left in the latest build. While we’re pleased to report sound is working again, we still encountered a number of strange app crashes and freezes as well as a few odd “Runtime error” windows. File Explorer had some interesting glitches too, with an upside down question mark and a one half character symbol in place of an apostrophe in some of the text. Clearly there’s still some work to be done before Windows 10 is ready for prime time.

Elsewhere on the web it was revealed that Microsoft are to move away from their old “patch Tuesday” model and roll out security updates faster and more efficiently than their competition. Taking a swipe at Googles Android OS, which is notorious for slow security updates, Microsoft promised to shame Google by announcing that they will “release security updates to PCs, tablets and phones 24/7, as well as pushing other software innovations”. There is still expected to be a slower update channel for enterprise customers who may need more time for patches to be fully tested before they deploy them to the PCs in their workforce.

That concludes our newsletter for May. On behalf of the team here at TWT, I’d like to say thank you to all our readers, new and old for your continued support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th June 2015 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy. Until next month, keep checking and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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