About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

January 14, 2014

2013 Sites in Review, Part 2

This week I will continue with the second half of the links we talked about last year at

Remember, if the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them with  Here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

  •   A very good cloud storage app.  Use the supplied link to sign up and get more space.
  • Kill  This application will totally wipe your drive clean so that it is almost impossible to retrieve deleted data.
  • Nexus 7  My current favorite Android tablet. 
  • and  The very popular free and paid TV movie streaming apps. 
  • Google  Google’s free/paid (depending on what you want) music streaming plus you can upload your own music to it and listen anywhere you have internet connectivity.
  •  A wallpaper changer which was less than adequate at the time I wrote about it.
  • Google  A very good note taking app where you can add pictures, lists, texts and be alerted by them using the time or location of your mobile device.  I just hope Google does keep this one.
  •  Did you accidentally empty the Recycle Bin and need a file back?  If so try this app which is one of the better ones for recovering deleted files.
  • and  Two popular social web sites.
  • A safe place to pay for online purchases.
  • Device  How to locate, send an alert or wipe your data from your Android device(s).
  •  Operating system which operates as well as Windows; however, this one is free. 
  • Join  A free application for individuals, which will allow you to log onto someone else’s computer, while they are there.  Great to use for helping and training.
  • Should I Remove  A free app that will locate and remove unwanted programs including adware, toolbars, bloat-ware, crap-ware and other junk.
  • AniPet A nice live wallpaper for Android devices. Also similar for Windows and OSX is Serene Screen at 
  • and  A good and much better GPS navigation app for your mobile devices. 
  •,, Internet Explorer – search at, and  The five most popular web browsers.
  • OpenOffice ( and LibreOffice ( are two similar but excellent free replacements for Microsoft Office. 

I look forward to continuing the discussions about software, computers, the internet and all sorts of technology this year.  I hope that you, your families and friends have a great 2013 and continue to join me in the newspaper, on the radio and on the web! 

December 24, 2013

Office – Which Office?

I received a great question today from one of my regular readers and writers, so thanks Ivan for turning me around.  I was going to have an entirely different theme today but it will have to wait.

Ivan asked, "What choices do I have beside Microsoft Office to install on my computer?" 

I thought that I would send him to one of my previous articles and then I realized I had mentioned this before but never specifically addressed it.  So, the answer is, "Yes, there are two freebies which are excellent replacements for MS Office. I have tested both and I do have a preference.

image First, off let me state that Microsoft Office is the "King of the World" when it comes to office suites being used by people all over the world.  However, I will also state that OpenOffice and LibreOffice are excellent and mimic most of the functionality of the "King."  Please, note that they both merge the two names. That is not my typo. 

There are people who swear by both of them and both are excellent.  However, my personal opinion is that LibreOffice is slightly better.  The main reason is the same people were originally working on this application and it was only known as "OpenOffice."  Apparently there was a developer/designer conflict.  Some of the folks wanted to move in a slightly new direction and others wanted to remain on course.  A "spilt" resulted with the new group forming LibreOffice.

I believe LibreOffice is slightly better mainly because they provide updates to the entire office suite as well as individual features a little more often than OpenOffice. 

image imageLet me share more good news.  Either OO or LO have suite members which do most of the same things found in MSO.  You can create and edit text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and more.  Another very nice feature is the ability to open and save in the Microsoft formats.  That way if you use one of these two to create a file (or edit one you received from a MS Office user) it can be saved in the MSO format.  You can even set the default document types the same as MS types.      

If you want to take them for a spin, do as I did and install both.  Try them out and decide for yourself if one is better than the other.

Be warned that when you download either they are very large files.  This means that it could take quite a while to download them depending on your internet speed.  There are also many online tutorials for them so you will not be at a loss as to how to do tasks with either.  

March 26, 2013

Office 2013–Word

3-27-2013 4-34-39 PM

So I made the plunge recently and moved to Microsoft’s latest Office version which is blandly, yet I guess appropriately named "Office 2013." 

So far my evaluation leans toward… "Yawn."  It performs as well as the previous version in most areas I have checked,  looks a little different,  saves to the cloud a little easier,  has a few new buttons and bells, but  still contains all of the office applications you are used to. 

Keep in mind my thoughts here are toward you, the normal user out in the world; not the published authors out there.  Though I have talked with a couple of you who have written books, newspaper articles and blogs, most of my readers are normal people who use Office on occasion, but maybe not for a living.

There are some interesting new features, or "buttons and bells" I will mention.  Today we will talk about Word 2013 and if I receive enough emails from you this week showing interest, I will move on to Excel, PowerPoint and some of the other apps in Office.  Its will be your call.

One change I really appreciate in Word is the new look when you use the "Read Mode." This is a great way to read a large document you have more than a passing interest in.

The read only mode was also present in previous versions of office so that in itself is nothing new; however, it looks much better and is significantly easier to read in this view. 

In the previous versions of the read mode your document changed into a two-page or column-type view.  Now, when you click the small book-like icon on the lower right of the Word screen it pops off of the page at you.  The words appear larger, darker and much clearer than before.  Another feature in this mode, which I accidentally found, was that when you double click on an object; picture, table, etc., it zooms in and becomes larger and even more readable.  This gives you a precise and higher quality view of the object.

Now if you are a PDF (Portable Document Format) user, creator or reader here is one of the best new features of Word 2013.  You can not only open a PDF document in Word but you can also edit it.  Yes, you read that correctly!

3-27-2013 4-34-39 PM

When I first heard this I thought, "Hmm, I bet you can, but I also bet it will not look very good."  Now that I have tried it, I have found that was absolutely incorrect thinking.  I have opened several PDFs in Word and after asking if you want to open it in Word it opens right up as a PDF.

I have edited them by removing words and graphics, adding words and graphics, moving paragraphs (and graphics of course) and saving the file.  They look identical (other than the edits) to the original document.  Even better you can save it as a regular Word file (docx is the default format but other choices work as well) or as a PDF.  This is amazing when I consider all the licensing requirements they must have had to work on with Adobe (the creators of that format) in order to achieve this.  If you get Office 2013 and use PDFs you will grow to love this feature very quickly.

The current retail cost for Office 2013 is $139.99, $219.99 and $399.99 for the "Home and Student", "Home and Business" and "Office Professional" versions respectively.

Let me know if you want to learn more.

February 1, 2011

Power of the Broom, Part 2

Last week I introduced you to Ubuntu which is a free operating system, but I asked you to wait until today before installing and running it on your computer.

Ubuntu is licensed as Open Source software, which means that it can be used, distributed, shared and edited by anyone, at no cost. Here are some of the other neat things that Ubuntu offers.

Let us pretend that you would like to try out Ubuntu but are a little apprehensive about installing it on your computer and then finding out that you hate it. Ubuntu has that situation well in hand.

Once you have downloaded it for free from “” and burned it to a CD (or ordered a free CD, they request a $10 donation) you can run it on your computer without installing it. That way you can see if you like it before it is installed. There are instructions on how to do all of this on the site. However, to run it from the CD, without touching your computer’s current system, get your computer to boot to the CD and choose to try it directly from the CD. This will give you the opportunity to see what it will look like and exactly how it will run – all from the CD. Once you remove the CD from your PC and restart your system it will run just like it did before you ever heard about Ubuntu.

imageI will tell you that it works great from the CD but it will be much faster and more efficient once it is installed. There is another option you can choose for installing this operating system. You can set it up to run alongside your Windows system. It will walk you through the set up, which takes about 15 minutes. When you reboot you will be asked if you want to start Windows or Ubuntu. This will allow you to use either system at your discretion.

I also mentioned last week that you get Firefox automatically installed. If you currently use Firefox you will see very little difference. If you don’t currently use FF…Why not? In my opinion it is far superior to any other browser software out there today. I have used it on windows for years and you can get it free at

The last thing I will mention today is that OpenOffice ( comes preinstalled with Ubuntu also. That means you get a word processor, electronic spreadsheet app and a presentation software that all mix seamlessly with Microsoft Office products. Not only do they blend with MS Office, you have almost the same functionality. This is also free!

This column was written and emailed to the DNR using Ubuntu. Did I mention it is free?

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