Wednesday, June 15, 2011 “MakeUseOf Answers Has Received An Upgrade [UPDATED]” plus 11 more “MakeUseOf Answers Has Received An Upgrade [UPDATED]” plus 11 more

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MakeUseOf Answers Has Received An Upgrade [UPDATED]

Posted: 15 Jun 2011 02:10 AM PDT

[Update: We discovered a bunch of serious bugs in the new Answers template which weren't revealed during our internal testing. Therefore, we decided to postpone the upgrade until all of the issues are fixed.]

MakeUseOf AnswersIn case you haven’t noticed yet, MakeUseOf Answers received an upgrade today! Finding  a solution that meets all our demands has been a long quest and will be a work in progress. The new theme comes with many new features and I will briefly introduce the most important ones here.

Most significantly, the new theme supports user accounts:

  • one step registration.
  • track your answers and (new) questions.
  • manage your profile.

If you have been contributing to Answers, please register with the email address you have used to comment before.

Here is an overview of most important new features:

  • Thumb Answers
    You can thumb up or down answers on any question.
  • Best Answer
    You can now select the best answer for your question or let the moderators do it for you.
  • Personal Profile
    You can maintain your own profile, upload a picture, and add your website and social network links. Through your dashboard you can track the questions you asked and the answers you provided.

What do you think of the new MakeUseOf Answers? Please have a look and share your thoughts. And although we hope that there are none, if you notice a bug, please let us know. All feedback welcome!

[Update: We discovered a bunch of serious bugs in the new Answers template which weren't revealed during our internal testing. Therefore, we decided to postpone the upgrade until all of the issues are fixed.]


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The 11 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 08:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf AnswersMakeUseOf Answers can help you find solutions for your technology related questions. Unfortunately, we don’t know everything. But maybe you know a thing or two more than we do? If you can help us answer some of the toughest questions, you could win a prize!

Every Friday, the Best Answer of the Week is rewarded with $50 and two runners-up win $30 and $20, respectively. Every answer automatically enters the contest. Just make sure we can contact you in case you win.

Please help us out with these questions:

For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

Need help? Ask A Question at MakeUseOf Answers.

Follow MakeUseOf on Twitter. Includes cool extras.


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Cool Websites and Tools [June 14th]

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 08:31 PM PDT

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. Most of the listed websites are FREE or come with a decent free account option. If you want to have similar cool website round-ups delivered to your daily email, subscribe here.

Add Your Website Here!


Culture Unplugged – Watching films of other cultures is an excellent way to learn about them. One source of these films is Culture Unplugged, an online filmmaking festival that features documentary films focusing on important cultural and social issues. It lets you stream excellent documentary films from around the world. Read more: Culture Unplugged: An Online Collection Of Documentaries Focusing On Important Issues


That Can Be My Next Tweet – as the name suggests, helps you generate Twitter status messages. It scans through your existing tweets and generates random messages by combining the words and phrases it finds relevant. You need to enter your Twitter username and click on “get your next tweet” to get the tweet. Read more: That Can Be My Next Tweet: Generate Tweets Based On Existing Ones



Web-Based-Software – These days more and more business applications are moving online. If you want try and compare web-based applications for your business needs, check out Web-based-Software. It is a business oriented directory, which lists various project management software, CRM applications, document management tools… etc. Directory is constantly updated with new business apps and has been operating since 2001. Read more: Web-Based-Software: Directory Of Web-Based Business Applications & Tools



Qodify – Notifying people each time you change your phone number or contact information can be time-consuming and inconvenient. Here to make the process easier is a tool called Qodify, a web service that codes your contact information into QR codes. After creating an account on the website you can enter all types of details. Read more: Qodify: Generate QR Codes With Your Contact & Social Profile Info



Parking In Motion – Driving can be frustrating if you cannot find a parking spot. A good idea would be to know where you are going to park whenever you head out. Parking in Motion helps you with this. It’s an iOS application that finds parking spots for you. Sized at only 2.3MB, the app lets you find parking spots in over 16,000 locations in more than 300 cities. Read more: Parking In Motion: Find & Reserve Parking Spots [iOS]


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.


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How To Import Your Facebook Contacts Into Gmail The Easy Way

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 04:31 PM PDT

import facebook contacts to gmailGmail is where I spend a lot of time during a given day. Whether I’m answering a fresh round of emails or searching through a pile of old ones to find important information I had either forgotten or misplaced, Gmail usually helps me get the job done in a short amount of time. One thing I never find myself doing however, is adding contacts to my address book, because well, that just takes too much time. Besides, I would have to enter all of that information manually. Where would I even find the kind of information that goes along with my contacts’ names and email addresses?

Facebook. Most of the people I know who I would like to include in my Gmail contacts are already friends with me on Facebook. So if I ever need to know where they currently live or work the chances are good I can just search for it there. But wouldn’t it be great if Facebook and Gmail played nicely together so I could have all of that information in one place?  Well, now they do, with a simple little web application called Friends to Gmail.

What Is Friends To Gmail?

Friends to Gmail (directory app) is a web application that you can use to convert your Facebook friends list into a nice, Gmail-compatible CSV file. Once created, you can import this file right into Gmail and all of your friends’ information, like names, locations, birthdays, bios, work history, and hometowns, will be added to your contacts for you. The app asks for permissions to retrieve this type of information from your Facebook account, but since all of the work is done within the browser, Friends to Gmail’s servers never actually “download” anything, which should alleviate any privacy concerns you may have about the app.

One thing to note is that Friends to Gmail does not download email addresses and phone numbers for your friends. This is because Facebook does not currently provide developers with a way to retrieve this type of data, and for good reason. After all, we already have enough privacy concerns with Facebook. Friends to Gmail’s developer does claim to be working on a way around this for those of us that would welcome such an option.

As an added benefit, you will be able to add all of your friends’ birthdays to your Google Calendar!

How Do I Use Friends To Gmail?

To get started importing your friends, just head over to Friends to Gmail’s homepage and click the giant Connect with Facebook button. It will ask for your permission (as detailed above) and you will be able to download your CSV file.

import facebook contacts to gmail

Then head over to your Gmail account and click Contacts.

import facebook contacts

On the Contacts page, click on the More actions drop-down menu and select Import….

import facebook contacts

From there, a box will pop up that allows your to select a CSV file to upload. Choose the file that Friends to Gmail generated and you’re all set!

import facebook contacts to gmail


Personally, I think this app is a lifesaver. It finally gave me a good reason to want to keep my Gmail contact list up to date, which enables me to add friends that I hadn’t previously emailed to my outgoing messages, making Facebook’s information even more useful.

What do you think of Friends to Gmail? Do you find this app useful?


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How To Update Application Icons In Snow Leopard [Mac]

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 02:31 PM PDT

application icons snow leopardWhen you upgraded to Snow Leopard most things probably got a whole lot better: more hard disc space, quicker performance and some other cool features. But occasionally you might stumble across something that doesn’t suit you and you want to change it back. It’s about this point that you might also realise that things don’t work quite how they used to.

One of these little annoyances is changing the application icons. Once upon a time, you used to be able to copy and paste your preferred icons straight into “Get Info” in order to change them to a new icon. But in Snow Leopard things are a little different. But don’t worry, we’ll get this fixed in no time.

Creating Or Finding New Icons

There are plenty of great tools to create .icns files, such as Img2Icns. These tools are described in more detail in this post. You can also find free icons using sites like InterFaceLift.

application icons snow leopard

Method 1: How To Change Application Icons (With Backup)

What we’re going to need to do is quit Finder and relaunch as the root user. This will give us the permissions to change the icon in the “Get Info” detail of the application.

Personally, I’m not too keen on plain icons, so that’s what I’ll change to demonstrate.

Add a Quit Finder Option To Finder

The best way to quit the Finder is to use Terminal to add a “Quit Finder” option to Finder. To open Terminal go to Applications > Utilities. Then type in the following command:

defaults write QuitMenuItem 1

This will add a “Quit Finder” option to your Finder menu after you relaunch Finder.

Relaunch Finder

To relaunch Finder, you can use the Force Quit dialogue. Access this dialogue by going to the Apple menu and choosing “Force Quit” or by pressing Command-Option-Escape.

You could also relaunch Finder by using Terminal and typing the following command:

killall Finder

Quit Finder

Now in Finder you should be able to go to Finder > Quit Finder in order to exit Finder.

snow leopard icons

Run Finder As Root User

While you’re still in Terminal you can launch Finder as the root user. To do this, you’ll need to use the sudo command. Type in the following:

sudo /System/Library/CoreServices/

You’ll then need to give your administrator password. When Finder opens it will be running as the root user, meaning you’ll have access to the properties of many more files than a regular user. Make the icon changes as quickly as possible and then relaunch Finder.

Changing Icon Files Manually

This way to changing the icons involves getting into the package and replacing the .icns file with another .icns file. This method allows you the option of backing up the original icon by renaming it.

  • Go to the application for which you wish to change the icon, then right click and choose “Show Package Contents“.
  • Then go to Contents > Resources and rename the .icns file for backup. Remember what the original name was! Copy the .icns file you wish to use into this folder and rename it to the same name of the original icon in this folder.

snow leopard icons

These changes should show up instantly in Applications, but you will need to restart your Mac before it will show up in the Dock.

Method 2: How To Change Application Icons (Without Backup)

This is using the copy-and paste method of changing icons, which doesn’t give you a chance to backup the original icon. You can use the previous method for obtaining file permissions or the following method.

Change Application Permissions Individually

This method of changing application permissions is simple when it works, but often the permissions can be a bit of a headache. Each application file needs the permissions to be changed individually and changed back individually afterwards.

  • Right-click on the application you wish to change and choose “Get Info“.
  • Click into the Permissions area and click on the padlock in order to make changes. You will be asked for your administrator password.
  • Change user type “Everyone” to “Read & Write” access.

snow leopard icons

  • Access the “Get Info” information of both the application image file you wish to use and the application you wish to change.
  • Click on the icon in the top left corner of the image you want so that it is highlighted.
  • Copy this file using CMD-C, then click on the icon in the top left of the destination application so that it is highlighted. Paste using CMD-V.

application icons snow leopard

This process can also be achieved by opening a file in Preview, then selecting the entire picture and copying, then pasting into the icon detail of “Get Info“.

Again, the dock won’t reflect changes until the computer is restarted.

Did one of the two above methods work for you?  Which one was easiest?  If you are having any problems updating your application icons, let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help.


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Microsoft Goes Metro(ish) With Windows 8 [News]

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 02:19 PM PDT

Microsoft's recent demo of Windows 8 unveiled a big change – an entirely new interface. Clearly inspired by the Metro UI currently used by Windows Phone 7, the demo of Windows 8 featured colored tiles that display information such as emails, stock activity and the user's calendar. As with WP7, these tiles can be customized by the user to show whatever content he or she demands.

Windows 8's new interface arrived alongside an announcement that the new interface would focus on apps developed with HTML5 and JavaScript, a change that should make cross-platform app development easier.

Touch gestures are central to the new tile interface. Besides the standard swipe-to-navigate and pinch-to-zoom gestures, Microsoft showed off touch-based “snap” multi-tasking that allows users to have multiple applications on-screen simultaneously and control the amount display real-estate available for each.

Although the new user interface was a central part of the Windows 8 demo, Microsoft made it clear that this is not a replacement and in fact switched between the tiles and the more traditional Windows desktop multiple times. Moving from one to the other appeared smooth, and the presenters stressed that they are not designing Windows 8 as if it has two separate interfaces, but instead working on synergy between the two. This means that both interfaces work with both touch and keyboard/mouse input.

What do you think of the current design of Windows 8?  Are you excited by the possibilities or totally appalled?  Let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: All Things D

Hey Facebookers, make sure to join MakeUseOf on Facebook and get access to some exclusve stuff. Over 105,000 fans already!


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Hot Tech Deals – Boston Acoustics 5.1Ch Classic Home Theater Speakers for $229.88 + more

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Boston Acoustics 5.1Ch Classic Home Theater Speakers for $229.88 is our featured deal of the day. It features Boston Acoustics’ Deep Channel Design graphite injected polymers and includes the CSSUB10 100W 10″ Subwoofer.

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

  1. Lenovo IdeaPad Y460p Intel Core i7-2630QM Quad-Core Sandy Bridge 14in Laptop $829 via code USPY429609 (Exp 6/16)
  2. Lenovo IdeaPad S205 AMD Dual-Core E-350 (FUSION) 11.6in Laptop (4GB/500GB) $399.99 via code USPS29609 (Exp 6/16)
  3. Lenovo G570 Intel Core i5-2410M 2.3GHz Sandy Bridge 15.6in Laptop w/ Blu-Ray $649 via code PADRE (Exp 6/15)
  4. TODAY ONLY Boston Acoustics 5.1Ch Classic Home Theater Speakers $229.88 Free Ship
  5. TODAY ONLY Asus 760G AMD Athlon II X4 Quad-Core 2.9GHz SuperCombo $264


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The Top 10 Best How-To YouTube Video Channels

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 12:31 PM PDT

youtube videosType 'How-To' in the Google Search box and see the large number of suggestions it throws up. It could be that it is among the most common type of all queries, or it could be that we all want to learn something new. If you continue with the 'how-to' search, be also assured that you will get some videos in your search for answers. A few, most definitely will be from YouTube because it happens to be the largest sink hole for videos on the web.

But the organization of YouTube videos into channels saves the videos from disappearing into the great muddle. Channels are assigned automatically, but there are only some which truly standout as great learning resources. Which are some of the better "How-To" YouTube channels? Let's find out.


youtube videos

Expert Village and eHow are now one and the same. eHow is one of the web's more definitive resources for how-to articles and videos. The topics range from Arts & Crafts to Weddings & Parties. The video channel has about 141000 subscribers viewing 150,000 high-quality videos produced by experts and community members. A glance at the tech section revealed a lineup of 1400+ uploads.


how to youtube videos

Howcast is another excellent source for fun YouTube videos with a serious 'how-to' angle. The gaming channel in the Howcast network seems to be the most heavily populated and subscribed. Though the more gadget oriented would head for the Howcast Tech & Gadgets channel which shows how to go about with gadgets of all kinds. The Howcast network has a total of nearly 7700 videos across categories.


how to youtube videos

Something like a 'How to Recognize Freaks, Geeks and Dirty Old Men' could grab your attention. Especially when you see that it's a how-to in internet safety. 175 million views of its 2200+ videos is quite impressive for this educational video site. The mother site has around 60,000 videos on a broad range of topics from Family & Education to Technology & Cars.


how to youtube videos

The website will push you back to the YouTube channel. The YouTube channel is all about what an ideal how-to site should be – Hacks, cheats, pranks, games, fun…things to do around your house with little/no money. We all could find some nasty project among the 195 videos on the channel. How about – How to Cheat On Any Test!


instructional youtube videos

Chris Pirillo, the well-known TV host and tech personality runs Lockergnome, a site which is a bit like our own, offering software recommendations and tech topics 'how-tos'. The YouTube channel is quite popular with 3400 videos and nearly 180,000 subscribers.


instructional youtube videos

From the serious of the channel to the inveterate of this one; this 'how-to' YouTube channel is all about the most astonishing hacks, pranks and how-to videos in the world. From the Tripwire Bang Alarm to the how-to on the Infrared Intruder Alert, this channel has a host of crazy but practical projects to while your summers away.

Make Magazine

instructional youtube videos

This 'how-to' YouTube channel is perhaps a bit too geeky, but if you fancy yourself around a workshop then you might have already paid the online magazine and its collection of projects a visit. Make Magazine is one of the ultimate do-it-yourself websites and always worthy of a bookmark. 639 videos could keep you busy for more than a year.


HowdiniGuru is cast in the same mold as sites like eHow and HowCast. Videos on a wide variety of topics make up its repertoire. The videos are also therefore top class. The how-to website describes itself as little instruction manual. Knowing how to jump start a car battery or how to make a classical sidecar cocktail certainly fits that bill.

Khan Academy

I would certainly place this study oriented YouTube channel among the top how-to resources. After all, even Bill Gates endorses it as a must stop resource for learning the fundamentals of math's and science.


youtube videos

This channel again proves that professionally-produced and user-generated how-to YouTube videos can be great learning aids; even with a monkey as a mascot. You have 7800+ videos that can teach you everything from automobile repair to preparing that car for a road trip.

If you traipse through the ten member how-to channels list above, you will notice that I have been a bit partial to the ones with heavy tech leanings. Then there's a bit of personal preferences thrown in. I have had to avoid some cool YouTube how-to channels on fashion (Threadbanger), make-up (MakeUpGeek), and even other technology channels (PC WizKid). Well, that's what happens when you enter the digital quicksand of YouTube. What other YouTube channels would you put on this list?


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Ididwork – Track & Report Your Progress At Work & Get Feedback

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 11:31 AM PDT

track work hoursThese days, working from home is becoming an everyday reality for a growing number of people. One thing that’s very important when working from home is accountability. Your boss needs to be able to figure out what you’ve been spending your time on and what you’ve produced. Solutions for this problem span the gamut from complete trust (my favorite, when the boss and employee have worked together for a while) all the way to apps that take constant screenshots of your desktop and monitor your every move via the webcam (seriously, that’s what uses, and sometimes it’s necessary). Ididwork lies closer to the “trust” end of the spectrum. It lets employees report what they’ve done in short, tweet-like messages, and is very unobtrusive.

Ididwork feels very social, and the resemblance to Twitter is often striking. For instance, let’s look at the employee sign-up page:

track work hours

Now let’s compare and contrast with Twitter’s sign-up form:

track work hours online

See what I mean? Three fields and a button, large typography. While I won’t turn this post into a study in UI design trends, the general vibe is quite clear. Let’s take a look at the manager sign-up form:

track work hours online

Ididwork is almost like two apps in one: It’s cut cleanly down the middle, with a different interface for managers and employees.

Let’s take a look at what an employee sees when they first log on:

track work hours online

Couldn’t be simpler. You get a large text field and can just type in what you did. Each status update can be up to (you guessed it) 160 characters long. This can either be a tiny task (“Finished first draft of one drawing”), if your boss likes to micro-manage. Or it can be something substantial, if you’re fortunate enough to have a hands-off type of manager. Some beautiful UI work there: See how ididwork allows advanced functionality (submitting via IM and using tags), but hides it using unobtrusive links.

Let’s learn a little bit about the tags and to-do items:

track progress project

There’s very nice help text for all three properties (tags, time tracking and to-do tracking), and they’re quite simple.

Let’s tag this entry as “marketing” and specify how long it took me:

track progress project

Whoops, and here’s the first glitch. My seemingly flawless syntax yielded an error message:

track progress project

Turns out I can’t use a comma, which is a common tag separator. Okay, let’s lose the comma and just use a space. All done! The entry was saved, and looks like this:


It really could not be simpler. The star isn’t all that clear, though: Why should you star a task you did yourself, and where will that star show up? I could find no explanation for this in the UI.

Next, let’s look at the weekly report option:


Here too, the advanced options are hidden in a section which is collapsed by default. Very nice, and lets users get right to the point. The resulting PDF is exceedingly bare-bones:


By default, it’s just a list of tasks and dates. I guess it’s for the kind of boss who couldn’t be bothered to log onto yet another web app, and just wants you to submit a weekly report in no-nonsense format. I was hoping for some bells and whistles, but then it occurred to me how silly it would be to use color in a PDF that’s meant for printing on a typical office laser jet. If it’s bells and whistles you’re after, the Analyze section might serve you better:


It clearly shows what tags you’ve spent most of your time with, and this is one place where you can see your starred tasks. This is only an accurate gauge if all tasks you log are of a similar size. Otherwise, ten tiny marketing tasks would loom larger on the graph than one huge wildlife-related task that took much longer. The graph also lets you drill down into a single category and compare it to past weeks, so you can see how the nature of your work changes over time.

So far we’ve focused on the logging and analysis, but where do your peers, or your boss, come into the picture? Right here:


If you can get a few of your teammates to use ididwork, you can all share the same feed, know what you’re each working on and even give props for certain tasks. This looks like a very useful feature for a tight-knit group. Next, let’s see where your boss fits into the picture:


You can email your boss even if he’s not an ididwork user:


Sadly though, we won’t be able to tell what that email looks like, because this is what happened when I tried sending it:


Oops indeed! Not to dwell on this failure, let’s quickly move on to the settings, which is the last thing we’ll be looking at. They are quite numerous:


That IM tab looks intriguing:

track work hours

That’s right: You can report your work via AIM, Yahoo! Messenger or Google Talk. I’ve tested this before, using Google Talk, and it worked very well. This is actually the handiest way to use ididwork: You just add it to your friends list, and ping it whenever you complete a task. No need to open a browser tab or log-in. Couldn’t be simpler, really.

Bottom Line

Ididwork is a lovely app that gets almost everything right. The UI strikes a fine balance between simplicity and power, and the overall concept is very compelling, both for managers and employees. Both telecommuting and cubicle-dwelling employees could make very good use of it.


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Similar articles: The Simplest Way To Have A Web Conference Call Between Computers & Mobile Devices

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 10:31 AM PDT

web conference callYour friend has called. They have a problem with their computer and are asking for your expertise. You want to help, but it’s a bit difficult to assist your friend if you can only rely on their limited oral description and your imagination. Everything would be so much easier if you could see what’s on the screen, and if possible take control of their computer from your computer.

You can probably think of several other occasions when you would need to share computer screens and maybe do something on the remote computer. There are several applications – both desktop and online – that can help you to do that. But is probably the easiest of them all. It’s the simplest way to have a web conference call between computers. The product comes from LogMeIn, the name behind LogMeIn Express.

Let’s Start The Conference

To start a web conference, all you have to do is visit the website from any Windows or Mac computer and click on the orange “share” button. Registration is not needed, but you can register for the paid pro version if you need more bells and whistles.

web conference call

If this is your first encounter with, you will be asked to download a little application/java applet to your computer. The applet will be your main interface to access the web conference.

web conference

After the download has finished, the application will open and connect to the web. You will see a set of numbers in a link that will identify your conference session. The link is called the “viewer link“. You can copy the link to the Windows clipboard to be used later or send it via email to your friends. The numbers will change every time you start another conference.

web conference

Now you are ready to have a web conference.

web conference

There are five buttons on the interface: The first one is the “Get conference number” button, followed by “Chat“, start/pause “Share screen“, “Participants“, and the last one is the “Share control” button.

Let’s Join The Conference

Joining a conference is also easy. On the right side of’s main page, put the viewer number in the “join” field and press the arrow button. If you are the one who started the conference, share the viewer number to your friends so they can join your conference.

web conference service

The conference application will open after you click the green button. You’ll notice that the color of the buttons is green on the participant’s side. The features are almost the same. The only difference between the orange and green side is the middle button.

web conference service

The number on the fourth button shows you how many participants there are in the conference. Clicking on the button will show you a list of attendees. You can edit your own name on the list by double clicking on it and retyping the word. However, you can’t edit other people’s names.

web conference service


Now that everybody has arrived, what’s next? What can you do with

For a start, if you are the host and you have more than one monitor, you can choose which monitor you want to share with the others. To do that, click the small arrow button on the right.

03a share monitor

The chat button allows you to send messages to one of the participants, or to everybody. Click the button to start, then use the dropdown list at the bottom to choose the recipient(s).

04 chat

You can also send files to the participants. Click the “Participants” button and hover your mouse over one of the names. Then click the square button in the middle.

04e extra menu

To let other participants control your computer, click the “Share control” button and choose one of the names. Only participants who access the conference from a personal computer can take over another’s computer. Those who access the conference from a mobile device can only monitor.

04g share control

Let’s Go Mobile

Other than web access from a personal computer, is also accessible from mobile devices. At the moment, the mobile access is only available from iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. But the developer has promised that the Android version is on the way.

After downloading and installing the iOS app, open it, write down the viewer code, and tap on the green button.

07b insert code

The shared screen will appear on your device’s screen. But there are only three features available via mobile access: Conference number, Chat, and Participants.

07b computer screen on iOS

This kind of arrangement is good if the one with mobile access will only give comments and advice to other participants without the need to take control of another computer.

07e chat

The End Of The Conference

To end the conference, click the small “X” button on the application. First time users will be asked to install the app so future meetings can start faster.

web conference call

So if you need to set up a quick web conference call with your friends, try and tell us what you think about it. But please note that the quality of the conference will really depend on the speed of your Internet connection.

If you know or use other similar services and applications, such as TeamViewer, AlmostMeet, Dimdim or Crossloop, please share them using the comments below.

Image credit:


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How To Improve Windows Explorer With Additional Features Using FilerFrog

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 09:31 AM PDT

filerfrog reviewWindows Explorer is a file manager and as such it is probably the most used Windows application. Or how would you access your files without a file manager? While most users eventually find out that Windows Explorer has its shortcomings, few realize that there are alternatives or ways to dramatically improve it.

For most people, ditching an application that they have grown so used to as Windows Explorer, is a tough step. But why switch to a completely new tool if the familiar one can simply be enhanced? This is where FilerFrog comes in, a free application that adds several incredibly useful features to the Windows Explorer that will make working with files a breeze.

How Does FilerFrog Change Windows Explorer?

To be exact, FilerFrog is a shell extension that integrates with Windows Explorer. It adds additional features to the Windows file manager, without dramatically changing or even replacing it. In fact, FilerFrog is very unobtrusive.

After installing the application and rebooting your computer, you will notice the FilerFrog item in the right-click menu, i.e. in the Windows Explorer menu.

filerfrog review

What Does FilerFrog Do?

Hiding behind the FilerFrog item in the Windows Explorer menu are powerful tools that you will never want to live without again! Once you get a first look at the menu, it becomes obvious just how many operations this little tool puts at your fingertips.

filerfrog software

> Organize > Extract Files To Folder

With this feature you can easily create a new folder and move selected files and/or folders to it in one step. The new folder will be created on the same level as the selected files and/or folders that will go into it. The operation > Extract Files to Folder completes the opposite maneuver.

> Organize > Copy / Move

Instead of clumsily copying and pasting files or dragging them from one open folder to another folder next to it, you can now simply copy or move them by using FilerFrog and browsing to the desired location.

I think that all features grouped under the > Organize submenu are ingenious! How about the other submenus?

> Sort Desktop

The name of this item is a little misleading. It actually doesn’t allow you to sort the desktop. Instead, it allows you to manage the color scheme of your desktop.

filerfrog software

> List Of Files

Following this path you can not just simply create a list of files in any folder, you can create either a detailed or a simple list of selected files, including or excluding the full path.

filerfrog software

> Security

With FilerFrog you can encrypt files and protect them with a password.

> Split and Join

Ever needed to split files to burn them onto multiple CDs or send them via email? FilerFrog lets you split and join files, either using predefined file sizes or a custom split file size.

filerfrog free

> Rename

The Rename category opens the doors to various ways of batch-renaming your files. For example > Find and Replace allows you to identify a common item in the name of several files and then replace that item with whatever you choose. Using > Append you can add a word to the beginning and/or end of a file name.

filerfrog free

> Image Manipulation

Going through this submenu you can resize images, convert them to Jpeg at the same time, or add a logo.

filerfrog free

> Image Album

Very simple but fantastic feature to quickly pack selected photos into a PDF document, ready to share with friends and family.

share photos

Can I Customize FilerFrog?

You bet! You have two options for customization. First of all, you can put your most used and hence favorite items into the Favorites submenu. If you find the path to this submenu too far, you can click the > Settings submenu and select > Show favorites in main menu (hide all other menus).

filerfrog settings

In both cases you need to actually define your favorites. Simply click the > Manage Favorites item and a window that allows you to drag items over into the Favorites menu will open.

manage favorites

The resulting menu could look like this:

filerfrog review

So this was a quick FilerFrog review in a nutshell. If you need more detailed explanations, I recommend reading the excellent Help file, which also holds various examples for how you could use selected operations.

MakeUseOf has previously covered alternatives for Windows Explorer:

Have you experimented with alternatives to Windows Explorer or shell extensions? What are the features you think are missing from this extension or other file managers?


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Three Free Tools That Convert PDF Files To Word Documents

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 08:31 AM PDT

convert pdf to wordThe PDF and DOC file formats are the bread-and-butter of modern documents. Chances are good that any specific document, be it an eBook, a study guide or a user manual, will be available in one of these options.

Sometimes however, the format you'd hoped would be available isn't. Microsoft recognizes this and has made it possible to convert PDF to Word since Office 2007. Adobe also has this feature available in Acrobat X Pro, but unlike Office, Acrobat isn't software that most users have access to. Fortunately, some free utilities have stepped in to fill the void.

Free PDF to Word Converter

convert pdf to word

This lightweight conversion tool is quick to download and install and only takes a hair over 5 megabytes of disk space, which means it will easily fit onto portable drives. Converting files is quite easy, as they can be dragged-and-dropped into the utility's window. Press the convert button and presto! You have yourself a Word document.

The accuracy of this converter is adequate when handling simple documents, but more complex PDF files with images aligned close to text can trip it up. For example, the manuals that we publish will have some errors when converted with this tool. Still, its tiny size makes it a handy portable utility.

Nitro PDF to Word Online

pdf to word conversion

If you have access to the Internet you can try Nitro PDF to Word, an online tool that can be accessed through your web browser. Like many online conversion tools, it's simple to use. You only need to provide Nitro PDF to Word with the document and your email address, and Nitro will then email the converted document to you.

I found Nitro PDF to Word mostly accurate. It sometimes did not convert all text in a paragraph to the same font or same font size, but actual text errors were few and images came through without issue. The email containing the converted DOC file arrived within 30 seconds of my submission.

Just one note – I'd be leery about sending anything through Nitro PDF to Word that's supposed to be confidential.  I'm not saying the site is known to be untrustworthy, but care should be taken when supplying any third party with private data.

gDoc Creator

convert pdf to word

Part of gDoc Fusion, gDoc Creator is a file conversion tool that has supported PDF to DOC conversion for years. Although gDoc Fusion isn't free after the 30-day trial, you can keep using gDoc Creator for PDF to DOC conversion free of charge.

Of the numerous utilities I tried, gDoc Creator was the most accurate overall, though it just barely beat Nitro Word to PDF. It handled all three of the documents I used to test the conversion utilities with virtually no errors, and those that did slip through were minor. In addition to this, gDoc offers three different types of conversion, placing emphasis on different priorities such as text flow or page layout.

However, the gDoc download came in at a beefy 102MB for the zipped file, which makes this utility a bit of a heavyweight. Of course, this is due to the fact that we're using just one feature of a much larger and more complex suite. There are also several optional features that can be selected during install, such as a Word toolbar. I suggest foregoing these unless you plan to use the software's other features.


These three utilities provide a good range of options. Free PDF to Word seemed the least accurate, but it was still usable and it's very light. Nitro PDF to Word is online and accurate, so it will be handy if you're not on your regular PC. Then we have gDoc, which is large download, but very accurate.

It's your choice. They all do the job, but are better for different situations. As always, let us know in the comments if you know of a great tool to convert PDF to Word that isn't listed here.


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