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Posted on Jun 22, 2015 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 25 – Windows 10 next month! Digital de-cluttering and more

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Top Windows Tutorials
TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 25

Welcome to the June 2015 TWT Newsletter

We learned just today (the first of June) that we’re less than two months away from the launch of a whole new version of Windows! For the first time in Windows history, this upgrade is going to be free for anyone running the two previous versions of the OS. With so much riding on Windows 10, we ask in our final article this month, is Microsoft being too hasty with this important upgrade? In this months main article we look at some neat ways your computer can help you de-clutter.

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In this months issue:-

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com
De-clutter your life by going digital
Tip of the Month – Make text in Windows easier to read
Free Utility of the Month – Freemake Video Converter
Windows Store App of the Month – VLC Media Player for Windows 8
Windows 10 Update – The launch countdown begins!

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?

We added a mixture of updates and new tutorials last month, including an update to our tutorials for the popular note-taking utility Evernote.

picture Converting DVDs – New section!

No DVD player in your fancy new slim PC? learn how to “format shift” your DVDs into video files that you can then enjoy on your PC, tablet or smartphone. This whole new section includes tutorials on converting DVDs and playing back media files. Click here to visit this new section.

picture Playing MKV files

MKV is a modern multimedia container format that’s ideal for archiving your DVDs and home movies. In this video tutorial, we’ll show you how you can configure your Windows system (desktop or tablet) to play MKV videos. Click here to view it.

picture MakeMKV – Three tutorials

Convert your DVD movies to digital video files for playback on your PC, tablet or phone using MakeMKV. Click here to visit the first tutorial.

picture Combined Community Codec Pack (CCCP) – Tutorials updated

This handy software package can upgrade the multimedia capabilities of your Windows PC, allowing you to play almost any format of video. Click here to see the first tutorial.

picture Evernote – Tutorials updated

Evernote is a fantastic way to keep all your notes safe, secure and available on your PC, tablet and smartphone! Our tutorials for this popular note-taking program are now updated for the latest version of the program. Click here to view the first tutorial.

De-clutter your life by going digital

As I start to write this article I realise I have a confession to make. I’m a little bit of a Luddite when it comes to old fashioned media. I still prefer to buy my computer games as a boxed, physical product, even though direct downloads have become the most popular way to play games on Windows PCs. I still read physical magazines and books, I still occasionally buy CDs and every time I pass the empty Blockbuster Video store near our local supermarket I let out a sigh of disappointment. What can I say? I just like my physical media (plus the walk to take the blu-ray back on a Sunday morning was good exercise). Even if, like me, you have an affinity for old fashioned physical goods, there are still lots of ways you can de-clutter your media collection and free up valuable space in your home (assuming you have some room left in your attic!). In this article we’ll look at some valuable space and time saving tips.

Important – This article discusses format shifting and converting media. In most countries (including the UK, where we’re based) this is perfectly legal as long as you keep the original media (storing it away in the attic, for instance) and do not sell it or give it away. If you live in a different country please check the local laws before downloading and/or using the software we discuss here.

Break your post-it note addiction! – Are you the type of person that gets through packs of post-it notes writing little reminders for yourself that clutter up your desk, fridge door or other areas? Cut down on your addiction with these three apps.

1) Use the sticky notes tool in Windows to put virtual post-it notes on your screen. This program comes pre-installed in Windows 7 and 8, you can open it by going to the Start menu or Start screen and searching for “Sticky Notes”.

2) Use the Windows 8 calendar app – To start this app search for “Calendar” on the Start screen. You can then set reminders and Windows will pop up a reminder onto your desktop.

3) Keep your notes in Evernote. You can write notes like shopping lists, reminders, to-do lists and more in this handy app. Evernote on your Windows desktop even synchronises with Evernote on your phone or tablet. Write a shopping list at your desk then read it back later at the store on your phone, ingenious! Check out our Evernote tutorials here.

E-books, e-bills and e-papers – Back when office computers were a new thing, some IT experts predicted that we’d all be working in paperless offices within a few years. What actually happened was completely the opposite, computers made printing out so convenient that people started to print every last little thing, using more paper than ever before. Even all these years later, technology can’t seem to eliminate the printed paper entirely, but we’re getting much closer. Here are three ways your Windows PC can help you cut down on paper clutter.

1) Choose e-books over physical books – We have all seen the rise in popularity of e-books, now that modern technology allows for small, light and comfortable e-book reader devices like the Amazon Kindle and the Nook. Sure, a physical book might still be preferable for many of us, but you certainly can’t beat the convenience of carrying around your library in a Kindle. While there isn’t really a practical and/or affordable way to convert your own physical books into e-books (unless you want to spend around $8000 on a scanner like this), just by buying a handful of books on your e-book reader, you’ve already saved an awful lot of potential new clutter.

2) Go for e-billing – Many companies offer e-billing accounts now, where statements will be sent in PDF or similar format, for reading on your PC or your tablet. Perhaps you keep old bank statements going back several years? Maybe you don’t need to, check with your bank and see if they have an online statement retrieval service. Shredding all those old bank statements and reclaiming that space is very therapeutic!

3) Document scan – You can convert a lot of paperwork into digital versions if you’re willing to invest time and money into document scanning. If you need to archive lots of old papers, perhaps from your small business or maybe from school or college, a document scanner such as a Fujitsu ScanSnap can quickly and easily digitise piles of problem papers. Remember to make a backup of your scanned files before destroying your originals.

Manage your media better – Do you have stacks of DVDs, CDs or even old vinyl or cassette tapes? If so, use the tips below to de-clutter your collection and save space.

1) Convert your music – Having all your music conveniently stored on your PC won’t just save you clutter, it can be extremely convenient too. Even if you don’t listen on your PC, your Windows computer can help you copy your media to your smartphone, tablet, mp3 player or similar device. Converting CDs is especially easy, the only hardware you need is a CD or DVD drive in your Windows PC. Follow our tutorials here to get started.

Converting cassette tapes or vinyl records is a little more complicated, but entirely possible too. Check out our tutorials here.

2) Convert your movie collection – Instead of a stack of DVDs in the corner, why not convert your movie collection to a more modern format and store your old DVDs up in the attic as a backup copy? We covered how to convert DVDs into digital formats in these tutorials.

3) Archive home movies – Converting your home movies to play on your PC depends on the format they are in in the first place. Modern camcorders record to SD card or similar flash media. In this case, all you need to do is take the memory card from the camera and pop it into your PC.

Some camcorders recorded to mini DVD discs. Often all that’s required then is to load the disc into your PC and run it through a converter program, the same program used to convert your Holywood blockbusters.

Camcorders that used older technology may require you to purchase a suitable capture card. These come in all shapes and sizes and with various capabilities. Unfortunately, covering all possibilities would easily fill up an entire newsletter in itself! Read the online reviews before you buy and be prepared for a little learning curve if you’ve never used one before.

Play that media! – Once you have converted your DVDs and other media, you can play them on a wide range of devices.Here are three ways you can enjoy your new digital media library.

1) Hook your PC to your TV using a simple HDMI cable. This is an easy way to get your digital library on the big screen, but it’s not always the most convenient or hassle free method for comfortable couch viewing.

2) Use a media streamer – Devices such as the Dune or Roku players support playing back media from hard drives and/or USB sticks. If you are buying a new device, check compatibility before you buy, since not all devices support all formats. If you already have a device you want to use for media playback, you can use our free utility of the month, Freemake Video Converter, to change the format into something you can play on your chosen device.

3) Use an old PC and install Plex – For the ultimate in whole house entertainment, find an older PC (make sure it meets the minimum specifications) and install Plex Server onto it. Copy all your media to this re-purposed PC. Now, a huge range of supported devices, such as smart TVs, tablets, phones, streamers, games consoles and more will be able to access your content throughout the home. Check out Plex and see what it can do for you by visiting this page.

So there we have it, hopefully we’ve at least inspired you to use the power of your Windows PC in some new ways. We’ve certainly been enjoying our new Plex media server here and look forward to bringing you more multimedia tutorials in the future.

Tip of the Month – Make text in Windows easier to read

If you’ve been struggling to read the text on your Windows device, then there’s really no need to put up with the eye strain any longer. There are two things you can do to help with this problem. The first is to change the text size (also known as the font size). To do this, simply right click on the Desktop and choose “Screen resolution”. Now click on the “Make text and other items larger or smaller” link. This will take you to a window where you can change the size of the desktop elements.

If that’s still not enough, you can reduce the overall screen resolution, therefore making everything bigger, though giving yourself less room to work with. To do that, again right click on the Desktop and choose “Screen Resolution”. Now, click on the box labelled “Resolution” and change it to a lower value. You may need to experiment with different values to see which one looks best on your monitor.

Finally, remember you can increase or decrease the size of text in most popular web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome) by holding down the control (Ctrl) key and then pressing the plus or minus keys.

Check out our tutorials on optimising your display for more tips on improving screen/image quality in Windows.

Free Utility of the Month – Freemake Video Converter

The days of one computing device for a family are well and truly over. With so many different devices in use by a typical family, it’s inevitable that there will be compatibility problems at some point. If you need to convert a media file to play on a specific device, then Freemake Video Converter might just be the answer you are looking for. The program can read in a huge number of formats and output video that’s compatible with most popular devices. Just the ticket to convert your kids favourite cartoon show so that it can play on their little tablet, for instance.

Check out the program for yourself by visiting this link.

Windows Store App of the Month – VLC Media Player for Windows 8

Windows 8 does come with a touch-friendly media player, but as we found out when making our recent DVD conversion tutorials, it doesn’t always work that well with the most modern video formats. Luckily, there is a version of the popular VLC Media Player specially for Windows 8 devices. This awesome player will play pretty much any video you care to throw at it. Grab yourself a copy of VLC for Windows 8 from the store here.

Windows 10 Update – The launch countdown begins!

It’s official, Windows 10 is launching on the 29th of July 2015. This announcement took us somewhat by surprise, as we’ve been following the preview builds of the OS and felt there was still considerable work to be done before the final version was ready for launch. After spending some time today with the very latest preview build, we’re a little less concerned, but even now there are plenty of places where the OS is still not quite ready. Instances of place holder text and strange icons in Windows Explorer are just two areas that make the OS feel a little unpolished. Of course, there’s still time for at least one more build before the final version.

Being this close to launch, we can start to get a feel for the final apps and features that will be in the new OS. While some of the new apps really impress, the new Calendar is great, as is the slick new Xbox app, others are a significant step back from Windows 8. The People app for instance, which features a lively interface with Facebook and Twitter integration on Windows 8, has been reduced to little more than a barely functional address book in Windows 10.

You may have seen a strange icon appear on your Windows taskbar, letting you know about the imminent upgrade and letting you reserve your free copy (in case Microsoft run out of data we can only assume). Interestingly, this has only appeared on our Windows 7 machines so far. Clicking this icon will open a window similar to the one shown below.

We assume Microsoft is doing this so that they can gauge the demand for the upgrade prior to the launch in just under two months time. Feel free to reserve your upgrade or ignore this, it shouldn’t affect your ability to download Windows 10 at a later date.

Overall we’re cautiously optimistic for Windows 10. So far the OS has impressed us on our desktop PC, but felt like a bit of a backwards step compared to Windows 8 on our tablet. Due to technical difficulties we’ve not been able to test the latest preview builds on our tablet, so many of the issues we encountered could indeed be fixed by now.

Even now there is plenty of negativity on the internet around Windows 8. Most of it is completely unfounded of course, as anyone who’s viewed our Windows 8 tutorials will know, it’s only a matter of a couple of simple tweaks and you can make Windows 8 behave almost exactly like Windows 7 if you want to. Nevertheless, Microsoft needs to get Windows 10 right. It’s perhaps a sign of the times that companies are more willing to release unfinished or unpolished software early and simply release patches later as customers report bugs. Let’s hope Microsoft really is committed to ironing out the remaining bugs before the launch date.

That concludes our newsletter for June. 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 July 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 Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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