Friday, December 3, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [December 2nd]” plus 12 more “Cool Websites and Tools [December 2nd]” plus 12 more

Link to

Cool Websites and Tools [December 2nd]

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 07:31 PM PST

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE or come with a decent free account option. You can make use of them without spending a dime. If you want to have similar cool websites round-ups delivered to your email daily email subscribe here.

Add Your Website Here!


LooseCubes – If you are holding a meeting or need a temporary office space, then you need to do a considerable amount of searching before you find what you are looking for. An online tool that helps you save time doing this is LooseCubes, a wonderful web service that lets you find office spaces. Spaces are marked by red cubes placed on a map. Read more: LooseCubes: Find or List Temporary Office Space For Rent


LinkPeelr – If you use Twitter regularly then your home screen is probably crawling with shortened URLs. The trouble with such URLs is that you have no clue of where they lead to. To find this out without visiting the URL, you can use short link expander LinkPeelr, a free web service that expands the shortened URL into its original URL. Read more: LinkPeelr: Short Link Expander (Chrome Add-on)



USB Flash Copy – Many flash drive owners take their flash drives to work and save data on it. They then bring it back home, plug it into their computer, and copy all the contents to their computer's hard drive. To copy, they have to go through a few steps after plugging in the drive. But USB Flash Copy ensures that the contents get automatically copied once you plug in the flash drive. Read more: USBFlashCopy: Automatically Copy A Flash Drive To Your Hard Drive



Carwoo – Have you ever tried buying a car? The overenthusiastic car salesmen and all the haggling involved can make purchasing a car quite difficult. A better, more convenient alternative is offered by CarWoo. It is a great web service that helps you find cars online. You start by entering in the details of the car you are looking for: the car's make, series, color, etc. Read more: Carwoo: Easily Find The Car You Want Online – Here is another minimalist tool that lets you share you photos galleries online. is a cool website that creates quick anonymous albums by letting you drag your pictures to the website. Once the album is complete, a link to your album will be provided. You can then manage the gallery from the link with options such as changing the name of the album, adding more photos, and deleting photos. Read more: Create A Clutter Free Image Gallery Online & Share


These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Join MakeUseOf On Twitter!

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 06:31 PM PST

If you have discovered MakeUseOf just recently and are one of our 350,000+ subscribers, consider following us on Twitter as well.

You’ll be notified everytime there is a new post on the MakeUseOf Blog, a web app review on the MakeUseOf Directory or something new on Geeky Fun.

Plus, we would love it if you would re-tweet the posts and discuss them, so more people get to know about us and join our community.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter Now

Thank you!

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

6 Stupid Yet Entertaining Office Games To Play Whilst Your Boss Isn’t Looking

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 05:31 PM PST

games to play in officeIf you’re reading this in the office, then shame on you – shouldn’t you be working? Doing something more productive with your boss’ time? You know, fun things like spreadsheets, photocopying and email.

Chances are if you do work in an office environment, your internet wings have been very much clipped and your access to guaranteed timewasters like Facebook and Twitter is restricted. Time to find something else to pass the time when you’re at your least productive?

Well here I present to you a small collection of games to play in the office that you and your co-workers can enjoy, even without an internet connection. Time to have fun the old-fashioned way…

The Invisible String

This one’s really simple. Take two points in your office and draw an invisible line across the area. Try to choose a fairly high-traffic area, preferably near the water dispenser or printer for maximum enjoyment.

games to play in office

It is then up to you and your closest co-workers to avoid crossing the invisible line. You can duck beneath it, or even jump over it – but your aim is to never touch it. The more people that join in, the better the game.

Should anyone forget, or unknowingly cross your line then all participating players should let out audible gasps of pain.

Microsoft Office 2010 Left Hand Edition

More of a prank than a game, but a modern variation on a longstanding joke nonetheless. This probably works best if you’re the one in charge, but it’s also great if you’re an especially evil office member.

You’ll need to target new members of staff, those on work experience or temps. It is up to you to issue a request for said newbie/temp/student to find and purchase the left-handed edition of Microsoft Office, the latest Adobe suite or whichever software package you desire.

fun office games

You and your cohorts can then chuckle to yourselves whilst said poor intern trawls the web and the office for a non-existent product. If your chosen victim is wise to your plan, simply reassure them that they’ve “passed the test”.

Traditionally this gaff is employed by asking a recruit to fetch “a long weight” (read: wait) from another department, especially effective if the other department is wise to your wit.

Blu-Tack Movies

Blu-Tack (or any tack used to stick up posters, memos etc…) can be found pretty much in any office in plentiful supply. One of its more creative uses, however, is in the Blu-Tack movie game.

fun office games

Grab some tack and mould it into a familiar object, character or clue to the name of a movie. It is then up to your co-workers to figure out the movie. Bonus points are awarded for artistic merit.

Photoshop Tennis

Best played with 4 or more players, Photoshop Tennis can yield some hilarious results. You don’t strictly need Photoshop to play either – any image editing program will do.

One player starts to draw a picture within Photoshop (or equivalent) which subsequent players must add to. The picture makes its way around the office (the more people, the better) before making it back to the originator.

This game tests the creativity of your workmates, and it’s fun trying to figure out who did what. Repeat the process till you’ve run out of room, then print it off and display it as your latest office project. Team building – right?

Off-Ground Tag

Just as childish and potentially outrageous as the invisible line game, the idea behind this one is to not touch the office floor at all.

Especially difficult to play, workers must use their wits and work together in order to keep their feet off the floor. Transportation is provided via the comfort of your office wheely chair, and lunchtime doesn’t count (unless you’re the guy in the picture below).

fun office games

The fun lies in catching your workmates out, and the forfeits you and your co-workers must come up with for anyone caught with their feet firmly on the ground.


For anyone who likes a wager there’s Telegambling. Gather your closest workmates and invite them to place a bet on a phone call. You’ll need to choose a victim who isn’t in the same room as you, and whose extension you know.

games to play in office

Everyone then must place a bet on whether the victim will pick up the phone. The winners share the pot equally, and the losers are left empty-handed.

This is a great way of raising change for the coffee machine, or foolishly gambling away your dinner money.

Have you discovered any office games that you and your co-workers like to play? Maybe you’ve invented some? Maybe you were caught? Explain yourselves in the comments!

Images: Bored Office Woman, Busy OfficeBlu-Tack Dude, Fun With Office Chairs, Office Phone

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Some PC Internet Speed Tests To Try & How to Improve Bad Results

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 03:31 PM PST

internet speed testDo you get the internet bandwidth you pay for?  Have you ever tested your internet speed? Do you know how to use the full potential of your bandwidth?

This article shows you how to measure your internet speed and it sheds some light on all the different factors that affect your internet performance. I propose a host of possible remedies that are easy to apply.

First I would like to recommend a ‘Technology Explained’ article that explains why measured and experienced speed are not necessarily the same: Understanding The Internet Speed.

Test Your Internet Speed

For accurate results, you should go with an internet speed test tool that provides a local server. Otherwise your result may be flawed, simply because the test has to travel great distances.

With you can connect to a test server that is physically close to you. Open the > Settings (top right menu) to change your > Preferred Server location and > Save your changes.

internet speed test

When you’re done click > Begin test and wait for the result.

broadband speed test

My result is 6.17 Mb/s download and 6.32 Mb/s upload. Other tests that did not match me with a local server returned somewhat different results. for example determined 5 Mb/s for the download and BandwidthPlace only had me at 3.88 Mb/s for the download. The upload for both was at around 6 Mb/s.

For a more comprehensive speed test, try MyConnection PC Lite, a Windows tool that we introduced here: Check Internet Connection Speed with MyConnectionPC

Now you’re probably wondering what a bad result is and whether there is anything you can do to improve your internet bandwidth. I would say upload / download speeds that are 30-50% below the theoretical optimum you pay for constitute a bad result, especially when measured during non peak hours. Contact your ISP and discuss how you can improve this situation. And yes, you can do something, too.

But first let’s look at what is beyond your reach.

broadband speed test

What You Cannot Change

Many factors have an impact on how fast or slow your internet connection is. Unfortunately, there are several that you have no direct influence on.

  1. Bandwidth Throttling
    Your ISP can throttle your bandwidth, for example when you’re using Torrents.
  2. Distance to Exchange
    The further you live from the next telephone exchange, the slower your speed.
  3. Cable Internet
    If you and the majority of your neighborhood have a cable internet connection, note that all of you share the bandwidth, which can lead to reduced speed.

To test whether your ISP shapes your traffic you can use a tool developed by the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems. Glasnost simulates BitTorrent downloads on your computer.

internet speed test

What You Can Do To Speed Up Your Internet

  1. Hardware
    The bottleneck could be your hardware. Your modem has a cache, which can impact its performance. To empty the cache, unplug the modem from the power for a few seconds. Make sure your modem supports the output speed your network requires and that cables are properly connected and intact. To find out whether your own network might be at fault in the first place, refer to this article: How To Test Your Home Network Speed (And Decipher The Results)
  2. Wired vs. Wireless
    A wired connection is faster than a wireless connection. You may also experience signal interference when using WiFi. To fix this you can either re-position your router or change your WiFi channel number. Also check out our article 8 Tips To Effectively Boost Your Wireless Router Signal.
  3. DNS Server
    The DNS servers from most ISPs are not very fast and can thus reduce your bandwidth. However, you can get free and rather fast DNS server addresses from OpenDNS: Find Fastest DNS and Optimize Your Internet Speed
  4. LAN Cable
    Although a length of up to 50 m should be ok, try to keep the cable as short as possible. If you depend on a long cable, go with a gigabit rated shielded network cable (STP Cat5e or STP Cat6). In any case, avoid bending or stretching as both affect performance.
  5. Running Processes
    Many programs use your connection to transfer data, monitor status, or download updates. You can control which programs access the internet and eat up your bandwidth by using a Firewall. If you use Windows 7, have a look at this article: Manage The Windows Firewall Better With Windows 7 Firewall Control
  6. Limit Reservable Bandwidth
    Per default, Windows reserves 20% of your bandwidth for automatic updates. You can reduce the amount and prevent Windows processes from receiving ‘special treatment’. Enter > GPEDIT.MSC in the Windows Vista or 7 > Start menu or enter it into the > Run dialog in Windows XP. Under > Computer Policy expand > Administrative Templates, click > Network > Qos Packet Scheduler and double-click > Limit reservable bandwidth. Per default it’s not configured. Click > Enabled and set the > Bandwidth limit (%) to 0. Finally > Apply and reboot.
  7. Malware Protection
    Scan for malware and make sure your computer has not been hijacked. Worms can use your network to replicate and thus will slow down your internet connection. Use up to date anti virus and anti malware tools to prevent future infections. Protect yourself with 7 Essential Security Downloads You MUST Have Installed or refer to our Best Of Windows Software page for alternative tools.

For more tips and tricks on how to speed up your internet, consult these resources:

How fast is your internet connection and did any of the tips above result in a significantly enhanced performance? Did I miss a factor or hack that could have a major impact? Please give your feedback in the comments below!

Image credits: Serp, olly

NEW: Download MakeUseOf iPhone App. FREE!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

The 7 Best Android Forums To Learn More About Apps & Features

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 01:31 PM PST

android forumsAndroid users, have you ever found yourself searching for help regarding something to do with your phone?  Do you need advice on which app is best to buy?  Are you trying to work out whether what you want to do is even possible? We’ve all been there. This is when you start Googling like crazy and scouring the forums.

But many of these forums are actually worth spending a little bit more time in. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll find out loads of useful information, including many tricks for your phone. But which of the Android forums are the best?

Since getting my Android, I’ve become a member on several of these forums, and spent countless hours reading threads from the rest. All of the following sites are well worth your time. As an added bonus, many of these forums have an associated blog. So you can subscribe to the feed and keep abreast of the best Android news the forum has uncovered.

Android Community

Android Community has a really friendly look and feel to it — the first links you see are to the introductions area and the lounge. But it’s not just fun and games. There’s a huge amount of phones listed for easy access to forum information specific to your device.

android forums

Android Forums

Android Forums has a great general forum for Android topics, plus very broad areas for each handset brand if you need to discuss your phone quirks. Has a minimalist look and feel.

google android forums

XDA Developers

XDA Developers was originally for Android developers, but has now been opened up to encompass hacks — thus making it appropriate for most Android users.

google android forums

Android Central

Android Central has a phenomenal amount of ways to find specific information for individual phones, software and other Android issues. Registering lets you enter competitions and removes the sidebar of handy accessories you can buy.

best android forum

Talk Android Forum

Talk Android Forum makes it really easy to just chat about software or to browse by phone model, carrier or whatever else you like. You can also log in using Facebook, which makes it nice and easy to get started.

best android forum

Android Developers – Google Group

Android Developers Google Group is a neat way of finding out what’s in the works for future apps. Plus, if you’re searching for answers this often hits the spot. It’s an absolute must if you’re looking to code apps.

best android forum

And Dev Forum

Android Development Forum is really focused on people who plan to make Android apps, but they’re also discussing quirks, hacks and promoting their apps. So an average user might still benefit from a quick look or search.

android forums

More Android Reading

So you need a little more to read? We’ve got a few more things you might like.

Which Android forum is the most useful to you? Let us know in the comments!

NEW: Download MakeUseOf iPhone App. FREE!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Hot Tech Deals [Dec 2nd]

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 12:15 PM PST

If you’re in the market for a new computer, laptop, mobile phone, games and other accessories; don’t waste your time searching online. We’ve taken the liberty of locating the best tech deals and unifying them into a single post for your convenience.

For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.

Keep reading to find out today’s Hot Tech Deals.

  1. Acer Aspire AS5742Z-4685 Intel Pentium Dual-Core P6100 2GHz 15in Laptop (4GB/320GB) $399.99

  2. Acer e-Machines E203HVb 20in Widescreen LCD Monitor $99.95 Free Shipping via code ACERLCD

  3. TODAY ONLY Harman Kardon BDP-1 Blu-Ray Player $129.99 Free Shipping

  4. Garmin nuvi 1300LM Portable GPS Navigation (4.3in, Lifetime Maps) $99.99 Free Shipping via code EMCZNYN52

  5. Lenovo C315 AMD Dual-Core All-in-One Desktop w/ 20in Touchscreen LCD & Discrete Graphics $499via code USPC1G1202

  6. Auria EQ3788 37in LCD HDTV (720p) $319.99 Free Shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

Hey Facebookers, make sure to check out MakeUseOf page on Facebook. Over 24,000 fans already!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Arista – A Two-Click Video Conversion Tool For Linux

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 11:31 AM PST

linux video converterQuickly convert any video file or DVD to play on your iPhone, Playstation or Android device. Arista makes doing this and more dead simple on any Linux computer, without the need for knowledge of cryptic concepts such as codecs or bitrates.

We’ve covered applications to convert video and audio files in Linux before, but none can hold a candle to the simplicity of Arista Transcoder. Select your file, select what you’re converting to and you’re ready to go. Best of all: you can queue a number of files and then walk away, knowing the conversion will be handled for you.

Really Simple Interface

Fire up Arista and you’ll hardly believe you’re looking at a Linux video conversion tool:

linux video converter

That really is all there is to it. Select your source file or disc, select the device you want to play your video on and, if you want, pick a preset. When you’re done simply click “Add To Queue” and Arista will get to work converting the file.

No, really: that’s it. Video conversion doesn’t get easier than this.

Optional items include subtitles, of course: you can pick a file with subtitles to embed, and you can even select whatever font you like. This is useful should you want to watch a French film on your iPod. Finding subtitle files online is easy.

Many Supported Devices

Wondering if Arista can convert videos to playback on your device of choice? Well, by default, exporting to the following devices is supported:

linux video editor

That’s hardly the end of it, though; there are lots more devices you can download from Arista Transcoder’s presets page, so be sure to check that out.

Just download the file, then open Arista. Click “File” followed by “Install device preset” and point the program toward your new file. Voila! You now have support for an additional device; find it in the drop-down menu.

Still not enough? You are picky, aren’t you?

linux video converter

Don’t worry; you can create your own preset on Arista’s website. This, of course, will require a bit of knowledge on your part but it’s always nice to have the option. Be sure to share any working presets you create with the community!

Install Arista Transcoder

Getting Arista working on your computer is pretty easy. Just click here to install Arista on Ubuntu, or find the source code on Arista’s download page. Users of other distributions not wanting to compile from source should check their distro’s package manager.


Linux users in general, and Ubuntu users especially, have long argued that their operating system of choice is easy to use. Software like Arista Transcoder helps prove this.

This program stays out of your way and lets you quickly accomplish a simple task: converting video. This is done without hindering the end user’s ability to customize the program, should they choose to do so. Simply put: I love software like this.

What do you think? Is this a program you could see yourself using in the near future? Please share in the comments below!

NEW: Download MakeUseOf iPhone App. FREE!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

8 Awesome Android Apps To Keep Your Kids Entertained

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 10:31 AM PST

top android appsAs a parent of two little girls, all too often I've found myself stuck in a waiting room or a car with bored children. If you have kids then you know that bored children usually end up as misbehaving children.

Here at MakeUseOf, we love kids. You’ll find lots of articles with cool apps for kids like Saikat’s list of NASA tools for kids, his list of alphabet & numbers games, or his list of great online encyclopedias for kids.

The only way to prevent that boredom is to distract your child with something fun that captures their interest for thirty minutes or an hour. You need something that holds their interest, keeps them quiet, and provides you with a little bit of peace. The following 8 Android apps are some of the best ones that I have found.

8 Fun Apps for Kids

My favorite Android Apps for kids are those that not only keep kids entertained but also help to educate them. The last thing you want is to stick a brain-numbing video game in front of them. Younger children, particularly toddlers, love large images, bright colors and fun sounds. If you have toddlers that are just learning the alphabet, the ABC For Kids app is perfect.

top android apps

The application displays a very large image of a letter. By clicking on the image, it changes from the letter to a picture that starts with that letter. In "test" mode, it displays a picture and the child needs to choose the correct letter that the object starts with.

best free android apps

You can download the app using this code:

best free android apps

The alphabet only goes so far toward keeping a child's interest, so when they start to get bored, switch over to the Animal House app. This is another good one for toddlers, but older kids might find it a little bit boring. Every time a child clicks on one of the animal pictures, the screen changes to a list of links for that animal


As the child clicks on each of those links, they'll hear that animal sound. Kids really love this app. You can also turn down the media volume so it's not quite so loud as they play.

cool android apps

You can download this app with this code:

Beyond the alphabet and animal sounds, another educational opportunity is colors and shapes. 5 Pumpkins wrote a couple of good apps that you can use to help your toddler with those basic fundamentals. 5 Pumpkins colors is a pretty simple concept but it teaches colors well.

cool android apps

The effectiveness of the app comes from the fact that when the child taps the screen, a little child's voice says the name of the color. If they click on the corner of the screen, it flips over the color and displays an object of that color.

Install the app using this code:

A second 5 Pumpkins app that is almost identical is the "shapes" app that displays and says the shape displayed on the screen.

cool android apps

You can download shapes with this code:

Probably one of the most popular ways to help kids pass the time – particularly older kids that are beyond the preschool years – are coloring pages. By loading an app called KidPaint Plus, you have access to an assortment of great coloring pages that kids will love.

free android apps

Just scroll across the color bar at the top to pick a color and then use your finger to paint sections of the image, just like you would use a crayon to color a picture.

free android apps

Download the app here:

Another fun game for kids to play while they're riding in the backseat of your car is the Memory Game for Kids. Just tap each card to turn it over, and when you make a match the pair will stay on the screen. This game is very addictive, even for adults!

free android apps

Here’s the code:

Another fun game is Image Puzzle. Like memory games, puzzles are very addictive and very fun. This is another game that preschoolers really love. Be ready for them to show you their completed puzzle – and cheer them on at the great job they did!

top android apps

Download with this code:

Probably the coolest app that I found to keep kids busy is a sound maker called Trinkle. The concept is very simple, but the results are nothing short of astounding. Picture an electronic xylophone that rings out a note each time you tap your finger. The tone depends upon the area that you tap. At the same time, that part of the screen lights up.


This app is really fun, and kids love it more than just about any other. The only catch is that you really need to make sure you're in a place where the noise won't bother anyone around you. I wouldn't recommend having your kid play around with this on a train or plane, but if you find yourself trapped in a car with a whining kid, hand them this app and at least the whining will be replaced with something a little less irritating.

Download the app here:

Have you ever used your Android to pacify your child for a little while? Do you know of any other cool apps that little kids love to play? Share your own resources in the comments section below.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Test Your Website In Multiple Browsers For Free With Browserling

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 09:31 AM PST

web page testing tool for multiple browsersAnyone who runs a website knows what a pain it is to test cross browser compatibility. It is the bane of many web developers – each browser has its own little quirks that you need to design around. Over the last few years, many free multi browser screenshot utilities have popped up such as Browsershots or Adobe Browserlabs.

Actually testing your website, clicking on links and testing interactions, is only possible by loading a “real” browser either on a bank of test machines or virtual machines. There have been some services out there that provide access to these browsers, for a fee. A new service named Browserling brings a limited service to users for free.

Browserling is a new web service built upon the StackVM framework which allows virtual instances of operations systems to run right in your browser. Within this framework, they allow users to launch a number of browsers to test out their websites right in your browser. As of this writing they have support for Internet Explorer 5.5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, Firefox 3.5, Chrome 7, Opera 10.6 and Safari 5.0.

Launching a test browser instance is simple. Type in the URL, select the browser you wish to launch, and hit “Go”

After a moment your website will launch in your browser:

web page testing tool for multiple browsers

Right now, you can test out as many sites as you want and it is free. There is a 1 minute and 30 seconds limit that you can use without registering, and if you do register you get 5 minute sessions (for free). You can use it more than once – but your session will start ‘fresh.’ They are working on paid plans that will extend this time and shorten your wait time, but pricing has not yet been announced.

When your website is in your browser it is actually what is showing up on the remote screen. You have access to all of the browser options like you would with a VM – giving you the choice of disabling features or interacting with the browser much more than you would in a simple screenshot.

If there are too many users on the service, you might be queued to use the next instance. Their “holding page” has awesome drawings and is animated to boot:

web page testing tool for multiple browsers

At the core of Browserling is an up and coming technology from the guys at StackVM. Basically, they are aiming to be able to create VMs on-demand and bring them right into your browser. This allows them to create services such as Browserling, making it easy for anyone to access this technology without having to worry about IP addresses or VNC clients.

The service works mainly as described. However, since each browser is actually running in an Amazon Cloud Computing instance, there is a good possibility that the service may become overloaded if too many people are using it. In that case, you can check out this video which demonstrates the service:

Considering that the service was just released to the public, and is in early beta, it is very promising technology. I did come across some issues where it would stop loading or I would see other websites pop up – these are signs of the early beta and the developers are working to fix all of the issues that have been revealed during this early stage. One thing I did notice was that occasionally past-user’s sites ended up in my windows – so do not post anything “confidential” such as sites you wish to keep private or usernames, passwords, or other personally identifiable information.

I spoke with James Halliday, who is one of the creators of Browserling along with Peteris Krumins, about Browserling and StackVM. They are creating technologies that allow you to display and interact with desktops in your browser. James said that they “see a lot of promise in the intersection between webapps and server virtualization”, so I expect to see a lot of neat products coming out of this technology in the coming months.

Check out Browserling and tell us what you think!

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Create Quick Access & Shortcuts To Your Files & Applications From The System Tray [Windows]

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 08:31 AM PST

system tray shortcutA mouse might be one of the best things that happened to the personal computer. It makes the computing experience graphically friendly and pointing and clicking easy. But from the productivity point of view, most of us will actually work faster and more effectively with our hands off the mouse than constantly going back and forth between the mouse and the keyboard.

For example, selecting and copying several groups of text would be faster – and less tiring – using a combination of arrow keys+Shift and Ctrl+C, rather than using the mouse.

You will also work faster if you can use shortcuts to open your favorite files and applications instead of constantly rummaging through your Start Menu and/or Windows Explorer. That’s exactly the idea behind SE-TrayMenu: to put your favorite applications (and files) in your Windows’s System Tray for quick access, and optionally assign shortcut keys to them for even quicker access.

The Small Wonder

SE-TrayMenu is available as a normal Windows-based application and portable app. The download size of the compressed portable version is just a little bit over 100KB, and yet this minuscule app can greatly improve your computing workflow. The app will reside quietly in the system tray and every time you hover your mouse over the tray icon, a list of applications will pop out. You can click one of the items to quickly open it.

system tray shortcut

But the real power of this app lies inside the “Settings“. Right click on the tray icon to access it.

01a Settings.png

There’s the usual “Main Settings” with the usual items like the option to launch the app every time Windows starts.

02a Settings Main.png

There are also quick drop-down menus to access Layout options,

02b Layout.png

And color themes.

02c Color.png

We’ll discuss this two items later on.

The main story is in the “Applications” tab. This is the place where you can add, remove and edit applications and files that you want to make available from the system tray.

03a Applications.png

The “Add” button gives you three options: to add executable files individually, add items from the frequently used applications list, and add items from the Start Menu.

03b Add.png

The first option is actually set to add applications to the list, but you can slightly modify it to enable adding any kinds of files (including documents and multimedia). Click the drop-down list from “Files of type” and choose “All Files“. This action will reveal files outside of the application realm.

03b1 Add All Files.png

Choosing the second and third options will give you long checklist of applications. Adding them to the list is as simple as checking the boxes next to the applications.

system tray shortcut launcher

To add shortcuts to open the applications, select one application from the list and click the “Edit” button. You could choose one of the available shortcuts from the “Shortcuts” drop down list or you could assign your own preferred “complex” shortcut combinations.

system tray shortcut launcher

After saving the settings and closing the “Settings” window, you can open your chosen files and applications just by pressing the respective shortcut keys combination. If you ever forget the combination, just hover your mouse above the tray icon and click on the item that you want to open.

system tray shortcut launcher

Beautifying The Look

Another thing that you could do to enhance SE-TrayMenu is modify the look to your liking by choosing the combination of Layout and Theme. The “Main Settings” tab provides you with quick options to modify those two, but if you want to customize them further, you can use the dedicated menu.

The “Layout” tab allows you to choose the number of columns, image size, margin, spacing, etc.

system tray shortcut keys

While the “Color Theme” tab gives you access to more detailed elements of the theme such as color and font type.

system tray shortcut keys

The combination of Layout and Color theme elements gives you many appearance possibilities for the applications/files list. For example, you could make it look like this:

system tray shortcut keys

Or this:

system tray shortcut

Even though the real purpose of this app is to minimize your interaction with the mouse and help you to be more efficient, it’s also nice to have a good looking list of applications.

As a keyboard lover, SE-TrayMenu is a must-have application for me. But what about you? Would you use this application to help you access your favorite applications and files? Or do you have your own favorite application to do it? Please share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

Image credit: ActiveSteve

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Diana F+ Deluxe Kit Giveaway [and Discount Coupon]

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 08:00 AM PST



Going back to film cameras, it’s beginning to feel really old-school. This particular camera which the nice people at Lomography sponsored is called the Diana F+. And it’s not alone because it brought some friends along.

We’re actually giving away the Diana F+ Deluxe Kit, which comes fully loaded with the Diana F+ and every one of its accessories including the Diana Flash, Hotshoe adaptor, Cable Release Collar and cable release, Diana 35mm Back+ 4 masks for 4 formats, Viewfinder Adaptor, Universal Viewfinder, Fisheye Viewfinder, Splitzer, Diana F+ 20mm Fisheye Lens, Diana F+ 38mm Super-Wide Lens, Diana F+ 55mm Wide-Angle Lens, Close-Up Lens, and Diana F+ 110mm Telephoto Lens. That’s a whole lot of gear!

It comes in a neat looking (very heavy) box. At this point, I’d also like to add that it makes a wonderful Christmas present. If you do want to purchase a Diana F+ Deluxe Kit from the Lomography online store, we have a 15% off coupon code for you — just enter MAKEUSEOFFAN into the discount codes field when checking out. In fact, this code is applicable to all Lomography products and is valid worldwide.


Aside from the gear listed above, the Diana F+ Deluxe Kit also comes equipped with carry cases and individual manuals for each of the lenses. In addition to that, a book entirely on the Diana F+ is also included that has sample shots and tips on how to use the camera. Unpacking this kit is an occasion in itself.


The camera is made entirely out of plastic and weights next to nothing. It’s supposed to be a fun toy. Emphasis on the ‘toy’. Even the lens is made out of plastic — and that is what gives Lomography cameras their uniqueness. Compared to today’s world of digital photography, using the Diana F+ is like time-traveling back to when photography was inexact and full of surprises. Focus is uncertain. Exposure is a guesstimate. But it’s all in the name of true lo-fi fun.


The Diana F+ is a fully manual camera. And if you have absolutely no experience with either film or manual photography, this is going to baffle you as much as it did me. But hey, even I managed to get a hang of it after a while (thanks to Lomography’s exhaustive manuals). The shutter release was another aspect of the camera that totally threw me off guard. It wasn’t at the top of the camera where I expected it to be. Instead, it was disguised in the form of a lever which was mounted right before the lens and in order to take a picture, I had to pull it.


By default, the camera uses 120 film, also known as medium format — the kind that results in square photos; but it does come with a 35mm back so you’ll be able to use ‘regular’ film as well. You’ll get between 12 and 16 exposures for each roll of 120 film. Loading the film was simple but everything after that was a complete mystery. Whether or not I shot correctly, whether the exposure was sufficient, or if I remembered to advance the film remained unknown until the roll of film returned from the photo studio. But all of that amounted to a glorious sense of occasion every time I took a photo. I had to make every one count.

Unlike modern day SLRs, the viewfinder of the Diana F+ doesn’t truly reflect what hits the lens and ends up on the film. So framing a photo up in itself is pretty inexact and requires some experimenting before getting it right. You also get focus options which you’ll have to set before taking each photo and they’re fixed at 1-2m, 2-4m, and 4m to infinity. If you really judge how far a metre is, who cares? Just make sure that your blurry pictures still come out awesome.

After about a week with the camera, I’ve become to be very familiar with it. Although it’s made out of plastic, it is pretty hardy. A lot of the worries that accompany expensive digital photography equipment doesn’t seem to crop up when using the Diana F+. I’ve also learnt to accept the camera as it is — completely inexact. And to expect the unexpected. Sometimes, we have to draw outside the lines, right?

If you’re wondering what kind of lo-fi photos the Diana F+ churns out, take a look at this gallery. Here are a few sample images.

We’re giving 2 of these Diana F+ Deluxe kits away. Want one?

How do I win one?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

Join our Facebook page by clicking the Like button or you can follow us on Twitter, if you prefer. If you’re already following us, you may skip this step.

If you can’t see the fanbox, click on this link.

Here’s our giveaway form. Please fill it in accurately. Be sure to enter your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. Click here if you can’t view the form.

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post. There are 2 options to choose from or you can do both!

Like it on Facebook

Or share it on Twitter

And that’s it! You’re done!
Giveaway eligibility
You must be a fan of our Facebook page to enter;
Individuals who are over the age of 18. If you are under 18, get your parents to participate on your behalf;
Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States; Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, December 31st at 2100hrs PST. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email.

If you’re looking to buy any Lomography cameras from their online store, please use the coupon code MAKEUSEOFFAN when checking out to get 15% off your purchase. This code is valid worldwide and can be used throughout December.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

MakeUseOf would like to thank Lomography for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

Hey Facebookers, make sure to check out MakeUseOf page on Facebook. Over 24,000 fans already!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Facebook Co-Founder Launches Jumo, A Social Network Specializing In Good Causes [News]

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 07:56 AM PST

Facebook co-founder and former co-ordinator of Barack Obama’s online presidential campaign Chris Hughes has today launched a new social network, with a charitable twist. The project is called Jumo, and after a soft launch in March of this year the site is now officially open for business with more than 3,500 ready and waiting causes for you to support.

Once you’ve connected your Facebook account to the service you must then outline which particular issues you feel strongly about. You’re then able to follow, promote and receive updates from your findings and hopefully take your armchair activism out into the real world.

Speaking at the Mashable & 92Y Social Good Summit in New York City earlier this year, Hughes said: “I think that when people click a 'Like' button or follow something on Twitter or sign up for an e-mail list, it's the first statement of support for any interest.”

Jumo follows a growing trend of websites established to drive the internet population into doing good with their spare time. Hughes believes that visitors to his site won’t simply click and forget about it, but hopes for real activism:

“It doesn't mean that [people] don't then go out and do things like knock on doors and go to protests or go to rallies or go volunteer or donate. They do do these things”.

Hughes outlined: “We can make it easier for people to connect with the professionals working in a lot of fields in order to make change happen.”

You can check out Jumo for yourself at Let us know what you think of the project in the comments.

NEW: Download MakeUseOf iPhone App. FREE!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Optimizing Your Notebook Computer For Blu-Ray (& Other HD) Movies

Posted: 02 Dec 2010 07:31 AM PST

blu ray player softwareHigh definition movies are becoming the norm, particularly for those watching content on a notebook PC. Blu-Ray drives are now available in a number of models, and those who don’t have a Blu-Ray drive can easily download high-definition content from a number of online stores and free streaming sites.

The only problem is that high-definition content like Blu-Ray movies can put a high load on a notebook computer. A notebook that is not running optimally may end up becoming over-burdened, which will result in stuttering and other video errors. If you are having these issues, or you want to preemptively avoid them, there are a few steps you can take.

Kill Any Processor Intensive Programs

blu ray player software

Playing a Blu-Ray or other HD movie is extremely processor intensive. The video on such formats is heavily encoded, and it must be decoded to view. This requires a lot of heavy lifting on the part of a processor, which hogs all of a notebook’s performance for itself. It isn’t unusual to see a processor pegged at 100% when playing high-definition video, particularly if the processor is an older model. This is when the video begins to stutter.

Of course, any other demanding program that is running at the same time as a Blu-Ray or other HD movie is only going to reduce the amount of processing power your notebook can devote to entertainment. An anti-virus program that is actively scanning, for example, can be a problem. You may also experience reduced processing power when performing certain tasks, such as transferring large files between computers or devices.

If you’re not sure how to find the programs that are killing your processor, check out our article about Windows Resource Monitor. This tool can help you track down programs that are hogging system resources.

Download the Latest Graphics Drivers

blu ray software

Many modern notebooks ship with an integrated or discrete graphics chip that is able to assist the processor when it is playing high-definition content. This is known as GPU-acceleration of video. Graphics chips are specifically designed to display video and 3D graphics, so they’re able to take a significant amount of load away from the processor. GPU-acceleration can mean the difference between a video that is skipping frames and a video that plays smoothly with the processor at just 30% of its maximum load.

However, GPU-acceleration is still dependent on software. If the proper drivers are not installed, the notebook won’t know how to share the load of displaying video with its graphics chip. The three major manufacturers of graphics hardware are Intel, Nvidia and AMD/ATI. Downloading the latest drivers can enable GPU-acceleration on your notebook and improve the performance of the graphics chip.

There are some hardware restrictions to this, however. Old notebooks (3+ years) usually don’t support GPU-acceleration of video even with updated drives because the hardware wasn’t designed to support that feature.

Use “High Performance” Power Management

blu ray player software

Laptops are very dependent on their power management settings. A desktop computer, being plugged into a wall, doesn’t need to worry about conserving power. Notebooks, however, do have to worry about power because they are often used away from a power socket. Unfortunately, notebooks are sometimes too worried about power. When plugged into a wall socket a notebook should ideally be running at maximum performance, but sometimes the power management settings limit this.

You can check your Power Management settings in Windows by going to the Control Panel and finding the Power Options menu. Alternatively, you can click on the battery icon on the taskbar and access Power Options from there. If your computer is not running at High Performance and you’re having trouble with Blu-Rays and HD video, change the power management to the High Performance setting.

This should change how your notebook uses energy, but some notebooks ship with proprietary power management software that augments or overrides the normal Windows settings. These settings help you go green with your computer, but they can also sap processing power. Obviously I’m not able to comment on where to find this on each unique notebook, but you can usually find the software in a folder labeled with the name of your notebook’s manufacturer.


Hopefully these optimizations will help you play Blu-Rays and other high definition video sources smoothly. The difficult truth, however, is that not all notebooks are going to be cut out for this task. A modern notebook shipping with a Blu-Ray drive should not have a problem, but older notebooks equipped with a  Blu-Ray upgrade or an external Blu-Ray drive may have some problems. Optimization is simply a matter of making your current hardware do more, and sometimes the hardware simply isn’t up to the task no matter what you do.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

No comments:

Post a Comment