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April 5, 2016

Windows 10 Tips, Part 1

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:48 am

Over the past several months I have received questions from readers asking how to do various things on Windows 10.  Some were quite interesting and some I thought could be useful to other new Windows 10 users.  Since sooner or later I believe we will all be “enjoying” what Windows 10 has to offer I thought I would review a few of them here.  Read last week’s column regarding the coming of W10… ready or not.

One of the things I am often asked is, “Even though the Menu is much better than Windows 8.1 how do I make it more like Windows 7?”

One of the most obvious differences is that the menu in W10 contains many “Live Tiles.”   I do not find them that useful and I have tried.  I feel they give minimal information I usually do not care about and take up a lot of screen space.

Resizing a Live TileYou have a couple of options to change the launch menu.  First, you can resize the live tiles if you wish to keep them but make them smaller.  Right click on the live tile you want to make smaller, then select “resize” and either small, medium, wide or large.  If you really want to get rid of them as I have done, right click on the live tile you want to remove and choose “Unpin from start.”  Easy as that.  You will have to do this to each one you want to remove.

Now you will have a large start menu that is really wide and empty if you remove all the tiles.  You can resize the entire start menu by hovering your mouse pointer at the edge of the menu.  After it is open, you will see a double headed arrow, click and drag to make it narrower or shorter.

If you have decided to keep any of the tiles you can also click them and drag them to different areas on the menu.

I get another common question about not being able to get to applications as quickly as in W7.  I would agree; however, there are a couple of things you can do that will help you out.  First thing is that you can click the start button and then, “All Apps” but you do not have to scroll down the list.  Try typing the name of the application you are looking for and it will usually appear at the top of the list.  If it is not first after you repeat this action a few times it will start rising to the top.

Click a letter to choose apps that start with it

Also, while you are in the all apps area you can click on any of the large letters and a list of all the letters will pop up.  Click the one the application starts with and you will see the app in the list.

One last one which defeats some of what you did in the menu sizing you did earlier, but I like this one.  In all apps find the application you use a lot and want to get to quickly.  Right click on it and choose “Pin to start.”  The application will now appear in the menu area where the live tiles were/are.  You can resize it as you did the other live tiles.

Pin to Start

March 29, 2016

Windows 10, Ready or Not

Over the past few weeks I have received some emails from people saying they are getting warnings on their computers regarding the Windows 10 upgrade.  No, this is not a new virus, a Trojan or any sort of malware hitting the scene.  Our friend – Microsoft.

Many of you who have not converted to Windows 10 yet are getting popups from time-to-time from Microsoft.  It has already been downloaded to most Windows 7 and 8.x computers.  Yes, there is a very high probability that it is lurking in a hidden location waiting to get its command to run.  If you choose to install it by clicking the popup, then you will have it after a couple of restarts.  But what if you choose to never click the OK button?

When MS released W10 for general consumption in July, 2015, they said it would be free for all users of Windows 7 and 8.x.  It was and so far, according to one statistics site I read, about 14.8% of all desktop and notebook computers are running W10.  For comparison it also stated Windows 7 is 46.8%, Windows 8.1 is 11.4% and OS X (Apple) is 9.33%.  They also stated at release time that after one year you would have to pay for W10 if you wanted it on your computer.

One of many Windows 10 Upgrade "Reminders"Now things have apparently changed.  I have read of some people who woke up to find Windows 10 on their computers.  The issue is that when they went to bed the night before they had Windows 7.  I do not know how true that is but I do know that people are getting continual “warnings” about having to install W10.

So it sounds like sooner or later you will get Windows 10.  I do not know if they will auto-install it without your input or allow you to choose “OK,” but I believe you will have it sooner or later.  Oh and MS says the update to W10 is for our own safety.  Yeah right, that was what all the new versions were supposedly for.

One of many Windows 10 Upgrade "Reminders"On to one other related issue.  I received an email from a reader who choose to bite the bullet and install Windows 10 recently.  They immediately had issues connecting to their Wi-Fi and asked me what they could do.  I had not heard this before and looked online…there were many out there with this issue along with a plethora of fixes.  Since I had no experience with this I suggested he go to a local computer shop.  He did and found out that many W10 upgraded computers had this issue.  I found online where it could be related to older drivers on computers but sometimes updating them did not work either.

I am surprised that my computers have had no issue with this.  I have a 2009 desktop, a 2006 and a 2010 notebook and none of them have experienced this issue.  But be warned if you have an older system you could lose Wi-Fi.  I have read on a few sites which say your best bet if that happens and a computer repair shop cannot get you fixed is to toss it and buy a new computer.

Thanks, Microsoft, for the mandatory Windows 10 upgrades, especially if it stops us from getting online.  Very useful feature…not!

One of many Windows 10 Upgrade "Reminders"

One of many Windows 10 Upgrade "Reminders"

March 15, 2016

Updates

Picture of new Waze mapHere is one update to the last two columns I wrote about Google Maps and Waze for Android devices.  Guess what?  Waze released a new version of its excellent product.  It has a couple of nice new features but mostly it was cosmetic with a few navigational changes.  I believe it looks better, is quicker and well worth the time for the upgrade.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Another update that took place toward the end of 2015 was the Google Chromecast.  This device allows you to view most anything you can watch on your computer on your TV.  Of course, you have to plug it in and do a quick setup.  I had the first version of Chromecast and all was well.  They rolled out the second one and all continued to be well.  Then early this year they did another update which was to work with either the older or newer devices.  It may have been well for some but not me. 

I used an older broken Android phone to "act" as my remote control for our Chromecast.  The phone had not been able to make calls for years.  However, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features functioned perfectly so for those it remained useful. 

After the update the Chromecast app failed.  I could no longer control, start or even make the application run with the old phone.  When I started the application it looked good then a message came up saying it had to restart, over and over again.

I uninstalled it, reinstalled it, rebooted the phone, etc.  You know, all the techie things you should do.  Nothing worked.  I then Googled and found other people with the same or a similar issue.  They suggested downloading the previous version from a now-defunct site.  I did and it all worked well again but within a week or so the new version was pushed back on my phone automatically and it started all over again.

To make all things good once more I installed the new version of Chromecast on my current Android phone and now all is well.  I just do not care for using my phone as my TV remote.

CCleaner main screenNow the Windows 10’s update:  I was basically and still am a W10 supporter with a few caveats you have read from me before now. Here is one more.  

After a recent update Microsoft decided that CCleaner (one of my favorite third party apps) could be a danger to my computer.  So instead of warning me about it and letting me make a decision as to what should be done, guess what?  The programming brains behind W10 decided it should automatically be uninstalled from my system!  All I had to do was reinstall it but what if I had not seen the small warning message when it rebooted?  I would have spent a long time trying to figure out what happened.  W10 can do this to you for a multitude of programs, so be cautious and read all the pop ups.  

January 12, 2016

2015 Sites in Review, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:21 am

If you have been keeping up you know that last week we looked at all the sites I wrote about for the first half of 2015.  Today we continue by starting with July. 

Thanks for the many emails I received about the article and please keep them coming.  Enjoy!

  • VLC Player, rd.dblclx.com/1LTJDOH – in my opinion this is one of the best video and audio players available. It plays any version of video and audio with no issues.
  • 8GadgetPack, 8gadgetpack.net – if you miss the old Windows gadgets like time, stock prices, etc. on your desktop this brings back these features and more. 
  • Dropbox, rd.dblclx.com/use-Dropbox and Copy.com, rd.dblclx.com/freeCopy – again, in my opinion some of the best free "cloud" storage available (use the links above and get some extra space).
  • CCleaner & Defraggler, piriform.com – two of my must have utilities for a windows PC one cleans old files and junk files the other is a better "defragger" application that the one that comes with Windows.
  • Malwarebytes, malwarebytes.org – great app that fights to protect your computer.
  • FileHippo App Manager, filehippo.com – this app updates many of your applications to make sure you have the latest secure versions.
  • 7-Zip, 7-zip.org – a good zipping application used to unzip downloaded files and also zip your files to save storage and password protect them if needed.  
  • Thunderbird, rd.dblclx.com/1ejd3ax – an email application where you can use multiple email accounts all in one organized place.
  • Microsoft.com – everything Microsoft.
  • Cortana, rd.dblclx.com/cortana-faq – many questions answered about the new Windows 10 search/voice interface.
  • Wi-Fi Sense, rd.dblclx.com/wifi-sense – Wi Fi Sense automatically connects you to Wi Fi, so you can get online quickly in more places.   However, it may have some drawbacks, check this FAQ for details.
  • Start Menu 8, rd.dblclx.com/1LShmDO – put the Windows 7 start menu back on Windows 8.1 and 10; however, for W10 I stick with its default menu and it works well. 
  • Google Products, rd.dblclx.com/1ReLX2G – a listing of all current and deceased Google products, some I really miss.
  • Calendar Sync +, rd.dblclx.com/22TOsim – an excellent replacement for Google Calendar Sync that many of the Double Click readers really miss.
  • Karenware Replicator, rd.dblclx.com/KWReplicator – an excellent manual backup application.  You simply choose the files you want to backup and where you want them placed and let it run.
  • Kmashi 15000mAh, rd.dblclx.com/1PG9nRf – an exceptional external battery power supply which when fully charged can then recharge your phones, tablets or any other device to full power.  I have had it charge over five devices on one charge. 

And there is the list of sites we visited in 2015. 

Please keep all of those emails coming.  I enjoy helping you with computer problems and also appreciate your suggestions for new columns.  Have a great 2016!

October 27, 2015

Windows 10 Annoyances, Part 10

Windows 10 is not the perfect operating system and has a few things that annoy me.  I figure there are some of you out there who are also annoyed by these things.  Today we will look at a few of these and Windows 10 annoyances  

A nice feature which first appeared in Windows 7 and has continued up to W10 and had a few changes is Windows Snap or Aero Snap.  I find this feature particularly useful when working in two documents or windows simultaneously.  For instance, if I am doing research on the internet for a vacation and I read something and want to put that thought into a Word document I could flip back and forth using key shortcuts or the mouse to go back and forth.  However, I can also use the snap feature on a larger screen to view them both side-by-side each filling half of the monitor.

To do this I can click and drag the browser’s title bar to the right or left side of the monitor. When it touches the edge it will pop into that area from top to the bottom and from the middle of the monitor to that edge.  Then I drag the other document to the other side in the same manner.  A great way to work in multiple windows.  I could also make one of the windows active by clicking anywhere on its title bar and then pressing the windows key and the right or left arrow key at the same time and get the same effect.

DNR Site and this column in Word snappedWindows 10 has added the ability to “snap” windows to the four corners of the monitor.  Therefore, if your monitor is large enough, you can see four documents at one time.  It puts one in each of the four quadrants of the monitor. I like that too.

However, the thing I do not like is that they have added, “Snap Assist” to help you.  I find it unhelpful as it makes all of the other windows on your computer decrease in size and sort of hang there.  When you click one it will enlarge to fill the newly made available space.  I do not care for it since it places them fairly randomly and instead of helping makes it clunky to use.  If you have seen this and do not like it either, here is how to stop the Assist.

Open “All Settings,” (I found “Windows key + I” for this recently) click “System” then “Multitasking.”  Once there I switch the second and third options to the “Off” position then close the System window.  Then I am as happy as I was in Windows 7 since snap returns to “normal.” (Check out my short YouTube video here, rd.dblclx.com/1jIrGI6.)

Make Windoes 10 a little fasterSome things seem slower in W10 than before.  If you feel like me, as though your computer is a little slow opening and closing items you can change the animation settings to speed things up.

There is a roundabout way to get there but here is Ron’s quick way.  Press the “Windows key + R”, type “sysdm.cpl” then press enter, (opens the systems panel) click the Advanced tab at the top and under Performance click “Settings.”  Now all you need to do is uncheck “Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing” then finally, “OK.”  You should notice an increase in speed; although slight in the operation of Windows 10. 

Next week we will take a break from Windows 10 but keep any questions coming and I may write about some of them in the future.

October 20, 2015

Windows 10, Part 9–Taskbar

The Taskbar in Windows 10 has some new features some of which we will look at today.

Right click on the start buttonFirst off, right click on your start menu button and get a surprise.  There are more than 15 different windows functions available in a list.  There you will find "Programs and Features" used to uninstall programs and install Windows features.  You will also find "Task Manager" "Control Panel" and "File Explorer" which are some of the more common ones you may use.  To use one left click on that item.

It is easy to add a program to the start menu or the taskbar if you want to.  First click the start button and find the program you wish to "pin", right click it and choose either "Pin to Start" or "Pin to taskbar" according to the location you prefer.  Note that if you choose Start it will appear as a tile on the right side of the menu.  At this point in time you cannot list it on the left side as a text link. 

If you wish to remove a pinned item in either area all you do is right click on the icon or tile and choose, "Unpin…" 

The last taskbar element we will look at is how to hide or display which program icons you want to appear on the right side of the taskbar when they are running.  They are in the notification area next to the time.  Some items like Volume or Network (to see if you are online or not) you may always want to see.  Others like, Bluetooth devices, your security software or "Microsoft Office Document Cache" you may never care about seeing in the taskbar.

To adjust these icons you will need to get into the settings area.  Using, "Ron’s easy way" click the start button, type "notifications" then click on "Notifications & actions settings."  Once there look to the middle of the screen click the text link that states "Select which icons appear on the taskbar."  Then for the ones you want to see click the on/off switch for the application to either on or off to see them.  Once you change one it will immediately appear of vanish from the right side of the taskbar.  If you want to see all programs currently running you can click "Always show all icons in the notification area" to on.  Play with them and see what suits your needs. 

If you miss the "Quick Launch" toolbar from Windows XP, as I do, you can add it back into Windows 10.  It is easy to do.

  1. Right click on the taskbar and make sure it is unlocked. 
  2. Right click on the taskbar again, choose "Toolbars" then "New Toolbar…"
  3. Enter, "C:\Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch" (without the quotes) and click "Select folder."
  1. Replace "Username" with your login username for windows. 

After completing this the Quick Launch Toolbar will immediately appear on the right side of your taskbar.  If the taskbar is still unlocked you can move it by clicking on the dotted lines and dragging the toolbar where you want it to remain.  If not unlocked you cannot move it. 

Right click on Quick Launch toolbar to remove text and titleTo remove the text on Quick Launch, right click on the dotted lines (at the left edge of the new toolbar) and uncheck "Show Text" as well as "Show Title" from the menu.  Drag programs and folders into QL as you wish. 

Below, screenshot before Text and Title are UNchecked.image

 

Below, screenshot after they have been unchecked.
image

October 13, 2015

Windows 10, Part 8 – Personalization

Windows 10, Part 8 – Personalization

Today we look at personalizing Windows 10 so that it looks and acts the way you want and not the way it arrives.

To start with, how about using another picture or one of your own pictures as your desktop wallpaper?  Things have changed a bit regarding this.  The pictures Microsoft has preloaded are very high quality so let me tell you how to use those first.

You can get there several ways.  From this point on I will give you Ron’s quick way to move around. Just keep in mind that there are several other ways to get to the same place.

To change the background graphic simply right-click on your current desktop picture and click "Personalize."  Now you are in the Personalization Settings menus and the "Background" tab will be selected on the left.  If not click "Background."  

Personalization options

 

Background settings windowYou will see the Preview at the top showing you approximately what your windows theme looks like now.  Below it you will see "Background" and the picture will be below it.  Click one of the MS included pictures below it to change the current wallpaper.  Once you have the one you like simply close the settings window.  Correct, there is no save button.  

To add your own photograph as the wallpaper/background – underneath the MS pictures you will see the word "Browse."  Once the browse button is clicked you will need to navigate to the correct folder which holds the picture you wish to use.  Once found click the graphic you choose and select "Choose picture." 

The last setting is to select the "Choose a fit" option which adjusts the way the graphics fill the screen.  I usually use the "Fit" or "Fill" route but I recommend you play with them until you are happy with the results.  

To try some other wallpaper options go back under the Preview and click the Picture dropdown.  There you will have "Solid Color" or "Slideshow."  Solid color is self-explanatory and many people prefer this.  The slideshow is similar to picking an individual picture; however, instead of selecting one graphic you need to select a folder that contains the pictures you want to use.  Do not open the photo containing folder but only select it, then choose "Choose a folder."  Your pictures will cycle through on your desktop.

While you are in the personalization settings look to the left.  Use "Colors" to change the colors of menus and taskbar, etc. 

"Lock screen" is used to change the picture of your login window. It works just like the background settings without the slideshow choice.   You can also choose to show your appointments and emails on the lock screen along with several other apps.  I do not use this as I do not want my personal information displayed if I walk away from my computer. There are several other minor settings here also.  Next, "Themes" work as they did in days gone by so I won’t explain anything.  Only difference is the look of the menus.

Lastly, under personalization is "Start" where it allows you to pick what you do and do not want to use on your Start Menu.  The only one I avoid is "Use Start full screen" but if you tried it and cannot get out try click the start button and the menu will fill your entire screen then start typing "settings", then press enter, click "Personalization" and finally "Start" then click it off.

October 6, 2015

Windows 10, Part 7

Today we will see how to change the Windows 10 default browser.

I hear many people do not want to use the new Microsoft Edge browser (the replacement for MS Internet Explorer).  I have read online how hard it is to install the default browser either Google Chrome or Firefox, the two more popular browsers.  Well in my opinion it really is not hard.  I have tried it with both and when I installed them they asked if they could be the default choice and I answered yes after each install.  Now, my default is Chrome but it worked with both.

After the install when I chose either for the default the system took me to the “Defaults apps” location to change it.  If you missed it or want to change any of your default applications, say VLC as your media player it is simple.  Click the Start button and type “Default apps” then click on “Default app settings” and scroll to the one you wish to change.  For this example, click on “Music player” and choose the one you wish to use.  Now all of your music will open in whatever app you choose.  Mine for music and video is “VLC Player.”  You can change your browser and other apps there.  VLC can be downloaded from “rd.dblclx.com/1LTJDOH” which is my link, so you cannot go wrong.  The following video shows you how to do this (no sound).

I talked about the pluses and minuses of using Cortana, and I personally chose not to.  There is another step you can perform to shut it all the way down.  So to erase Cortana’s data it may have on you and also turn her off, go to “All Settings”, (found by clicking the lined link next to your time/date on the right of the taskbar) “Privacy”, “Speech, inking & typing”, and click the gray button that says “Stop getting to know me.” If the item says, “Turn off”, click it.  If it says, “Turn on”, click out of it as it is already off.

Speaking of Solitaire, OK I was not, but pretend for me.  You now get a large number of Solitaire games with W10.  The Microsoft Solitaire Collection has the standard version “Klondike” along with Spider, Free Cell, Pyramid and TriPeaks.

These are all free; however, you get advertisements for other Microsoft products, for instance, Xbox and the plethora of games it has.  You will also have to log in with your Microsoft account if you want to save your scores for others to see.  But if you say no to the login a time or two you can play to your heart’s content alone…it is called solitaire for a reason, you know. There are daily challenges and more to come in Solitaire like leader boards, but again you must log in to get the MS money credits.

Windows 10 Solitaire

September 29, 2015

Windows 10, Part 6

Last week we looked at the new Start Menu in Windows 10.  If you read it you know that we only looked at the left side.  Today we venture on to the right side of the menu system in W10.

The right side of the start menu may send shivers of fear down your spine.  If it does you were almost certainly a former Windows 8 or 8.1 user.  It looks awfully familiar to the “Metro” window of those happy days gone by.

Right side of Ron's Start menuThe right side shows you “Tiles” some of which are live/active and some are not.  For instance, it will come with the default live news and weather tiles.  The news will provide a constantly changing “tile” which updates news during the time you are on your computer.  The weather tile will do the same thing with the weather.  This is of course, when you have started the menu.

You must first set up the weather by clicking on the tile to open it and set your location.  I used my zip code and it found everything very quickly.

The regular, non-live tiles have an icon and the name of the program they connect to.  When you click them the program opens.  These are pretty much the same as the old Windows 7 menu that had text links which opened the specific programs.

You can move the tiles around on the start menu, change their sizes to small, medium, wide and large depending on what the tile allows.  You can also group the tiles.  The default is the group with the news and weather titled, “Life at a glance.”

You can also change the size of the menu.  To do this move your mouse to the top or side edge of the menu and when you see the double headed arrow, click and drag.  Doing so will make the menu larger or smaller as you would like. If you would like, you can go to All Settings, Personalization, Start and cut on “Use Start full screen.”  The menu will then cover your desktop.

If you want to add any program to the start menu all you need to do is find the program in the All Apps area, right click it and then click, “Pin to start.”  In just a second it will appear in the start menu and you may then proceed to size and/or move it as you wish.

Now on to, “The reason Ron really does not like the new menu.”  My reason is I like the old menu since I could add my five or 10 apps to the top of the menu bar and get to them quickly.  In my opinion more quickly than I can in the new W10 menu.  I have started using it; however, I just do not appreciate not being able to put items on the left side of the menu as I want them placed.

I have solved this for myself by adding those particular apps to the right side as tiles and setting them at the small tile size.  I do not like the wasted space when compared to text links but it is doable.

One last thing you can do if you really do not want the new menu is to install IObit’sStart Menu 8” (rd.dblclx.com/1LShmDO).  It brings a very similar Windows 7 start menu back to you and worked well on Windows 10 and 8.1 when I tried it out.

Personally I decided to stick with the W10 menu and get used to it, which is working for me so far. Iobit's Start Menu 8 sample

September 22, 2015

Windows 10, Part 5

Starting today we will look at some of the new features found in Windows 10.  The most anticipated addition to Windows 10 (over 8.1) is the Start Menu.  The start menu has had a big change between W8.1 and W10; however, not so great between W7 and W10.  

The start menu is accessed through the Windows button on the left end of the taskbar as it has been for past generations of Windows.  You can also press the actual Windows key on your keyboard to pop up the menu.

There are two major sections of the new menu, left and right…easy so far. 

Ron's current Windows 10 Start MenuThe left side which is a list area has several sections.  From the top down they are User info, "Most used" apps and "Recently added" apps along with several system settings and search.

User info shows your icon and username for your account if you set it up when you installed Windows 10.  If you click it you get, "Change account settings" "Lock" and "Sign out."   Of course, you can use the keyboard combination of Windows key + L to lock your system.  However, in my opinion it should be in the bottom section near Power.  This is where it always was in the past. 

"Most used" and "Recently added" links’ uses are obvious for your applications.  However, unlike previous versions of windows, you cannot add apps you want to have in that side anywhere or in any way.  There have been many complaints about this online so keep your fingers crossed for a "new" old feature.  

The system settings labeled at the lower left have the defaults of File Explorer, Settings, Power and All apps.  File explorer has not changed much from the previous versions.  Settings is basically the old "Control Panel" with a modern new look. You may click the start button and type, "control panel" and still get to the old one if you prefer.  

When you click the Power link/button, Sleep, Shut down or Restart are found.  These have the same uses as previous versions with a new location.

Next you will find "All apps." This is where all your applications are found.  This was named "All Programs" in W7.

If you click All apps you will get an alphabetized list of all the applications installed on your computer.  Use your mouse, touch screen or up/down arrows to scroll the list.  Click on the application you want to run and it runs.  Another quick way to use the new applications list is to click on any the labeled letters in the list. When you do this a table of all letters will appear. To open Excel, for example, click on E and you will jump to all of the applications on your computer which start with E.  Then click the application name for it to open. 

If you cannot see all of the letters move your mouse to the top edge of the start menu.  When you see a double ended arrow click and drag up/down to resize the menu as needed.

Next week we look at the right side and tiles.

 Click a letter to find apps that start with that letter.        Click a letter to jump to alphabet

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