Feb 28

If you regularly find yourself copying and pasting text from websites or desktop applications then you should really have a look at PureText. When activated, this free utility quickly removes text formatting such as bold, italics, colour, underline, bullets and hyperlinks allowing you to just paste the text. For example, I commonly find myself having to paste portions of information I’ve found online into Word documents but I don’t want all the web formatting to be carried over. Similarly, I sometimes copy sections out of Word files into other applications and I often don’t need all the Word formatting. With PureText installed, once the information has been copied to the Windows clipboard in the usual fashion, I just click the PureText icon in the system tray and paste the text into the new document (or there’s an alternative hotkey combination to paste without the formatting – by default, it’s Windows key + V). Pure Text only removes rich formatting from text and won’t remove carriage returns or tabs.

PureText

There are free utilities for just about everything you need to do on your PC. In fact, you could end up downloading way more than you need – and forget they’re there on your PC. But if copying and pasting is something you do regularly then this is one utility you’ll end up using on a regular basis. It only takes up about 3MB of memory.

PureText


Feb 23

If you’ve ever used a browser on a netbook, you’ll know that pretty much half of your screen can be taken up by menus, address bars, bookmark bars and tabs. Here’s a screenshot of the full netbook screen showing Firefox on my Acer Aspire One netbook running Ubuntu Netbook Remix – just 12 lines of posts in Google Reader – not too good.

Firefoxrealestate1

Okay, I know all you keyboard ninjas know about this one, but for those out there who do everything by mouse, try pressing F11 when your browser is open. This is the same screenshot of the full netbook screen after pressing F11.

firefoxrealestate2

Great isn’t it. As you can see, the Firefox menus are gone from the top and the status bar from the bottom, and we now have 16 lines of posts. And the F11 full screen trick works in Google Chrome and Internet Explorer as well, and on a desktop PC of course. Hitting F11 again will toggle the menus on again, but here’s a nice feature. If you’ve maximized your screen real estate with F11 and then move your mouse up to the very top of the screen in Firefox and Internet Explorer, the address bar and tabs will auto-show allowing you to open new tabs or key a new URL in the address bar! Move the mouse back down and the menus auto-hide again.

Now if you want even more control over which menu bars and address bars show in Firefox, you could add the Hide GUI Bars extension as described on How to Geek.

Okay, so you knew about F11. Well did you know that in Firefox, hitting Ctrl-F brings up a search bar at the bottom for searching that browser window? Not only that but you can highlight the search results too and click through them. Also works for the other browsers I’ve mentioned. Here’s an example of a search for ‘Facebook’ in my Google Reader feeds.

Firefoxrealestate3

Okay, so you knew that too and you’ve been short-changed by these simple tips. Well how about the ultimate list of Firefox keyboard shortcuts – head over to ShortcutWorld. There are pages for Chrome and Internet Explorer there too. More keyboard shortcuts than you’ll probably ever need!


Feb 20

Subscribe by email

Another small milestone here at Tech and Life – the 100th post! Time to thank everyone who’s been following the blog so far – I’m enjoying doing it in my spare time and am really encouraged by the subscriptions to the feed since I began about 18 months ago.

I’m trying to improve the blog when I can and have just signed up to FeedBurner, primarily to add the option for readers to subscribe by email for those who prefer that. I’m a little slow at getting round to it and my apologies. Anyway, please sign up for emails in the side bar if you prefer to receive updates that way. I post at most 3 times a week so I won’t be flooding your inbox! Be sure to add our email address to your ‘safe list’ in your email client to make sure newsletters reach your inbox and aren’t diverted to your bulk or spam folders. Let me know if you have any problems with the subscription or any improvements I can make.

I’ve also added Google Translate to the sidebar. Although it’s not perfect, you may prefer to have this option to translate the blog into your own language. I’ve blogged about automated blog translation before. I had some problems getting it to translate to other languages and discovered that the Firefox extension Flashblock causes a conflict with Google Translate. Disabling the extension solved the problem. So if you’re using Google Translate and getting the error message: Error: The server could not complete your request. Try again later, try disabling the Flashblock extension in Firefox.

I’ve also recently added the Wapple Architect plugin so this blog can be viewed on mobile phones.

Finally, I hope to have more guest posts in the coming months – look forward to the first coming up soon. Oh and if you have any suggestions for the blog or for blog topics, drop a comment below.

Image credit: Mzelle Biscotte


Feb 6
Computers: the great time sink!
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Life | icon4 February 6, 2010| icon31 Comment »

whirlpool

Computers. Don’t you just love them! Time rushes by when you are in front of that screen. Oftentimes I’ve let the fire die, or the potatoes boil to a soggy mush as I try to solve a computer problem or devise a workaround. And I’m not alone. They’re supposed to make you more productive… save you time, but sometimes I wonder. I loved this recent post on thrive as the author tried to do some photo editing and the catalogue of problems that ensued and the time wasted – I could identify with so much there.

We’ve all been there – a seemingly simple software problem to sort out or routine to master but it can take an eternity to get a satisfying result. In my experience, with the best will in the world, even after reading software help files, checking the preferences, often you may not get the direct easy solution you wanted but have to resort to a workaround or even have to hunt for an alternative program. Many’s a time I’ve found that with computers, for some reason to get from A to B you have to go via C and D!

Some applications like Photoshop are complex and you need to invest a fair bit of time to master them. Then when these apps are updated, they lose functionality or do things differently and you have to relearn stuff. Other applications just aren’t intuitive enough. I’ve often found that during a software installation or when using an app, the choice of options and the result of choosing an option aren’t clearly explained. I’m often left scratching my head wondering what exactly will happen if I chose a particular option, check a box or follow a particular route – and of course often the wrong choice is made and you have to start over losing more time. If I get the wrong result when using an app, very often I just have to work though the possible options by trial and error, changing one item at a time until I get the right result – more time gone. And of course don’t change two or three things at once as a shortcut – invariably, if you solve it you won’t know exactly which tweak solved it.

But having said that, there’s a great sense of achievement when you crack it no matter how long it takes. I’ve blogged some of my tips when I’ve solved a PC problem so as to try and help people through the same problems – and that’s my point here. When I started with PCs many years ago, there was no real help other than the good old manual, if that. Nowadays, we have so much help, from a quick Google search to tech forums, Twitter and sites like Mahalo Answers and MakeUseOf Answers where you can ask tech questions.

And when you’ve cracked that problem, be sure to make a note of what you did in something like Evernote, so you know for next time. There’s nothing worse that sitting down 3 or 4 months later faced with the same problem and scratching your head wondering how you solved it last time. Use your PC to remind you!

Have you solved a PC issue that’s given you a great sense of achievement? How do you solve PC problems? What do you find frustrating and a real time sink? Have you ever given up in disgust and taken drastic action! Have you resorted to changing your operation system or finding new software? Tell us in the comments!

photo credit: ap


Feb 6

USB stick

If you carry your data on a USB drive, I’m sure you’re always worried about losing it. Of course you should always take the necessary precautions about protecting the data on it like making sure it’s backed up somewhere safe and encrypting the data on it if necessary. But we don’t always do this and so we might end up losing some valuable information.

You could use Flash Drive Reminder which pops up a reminder when you try and log off Windows without removing your USB drive. Putting the drive on a car key ring might also help you to remember it but if you haven’t done this, what about getting the stick back? Doubtless if lost, some finders would just keep it, look at the data, or delete the encrypted data and reuse the stick, but I’m sure many with good intentions would return it if given the chance.

Well you could use LostDrive and edit the contact details. Or just put a text file in the root directory of the stick with your contact details. You could call the file ‘Read-me-if-you-find-this-USB-stick.txt’. But you mightn’t be happy about putting contact details in there in case the drive falls into the wrong hands.

Well I’ve come across a free service called whspr! which allows you to be contacted by email without giving away any personal details in the text file.

whspr

If you fill out the form there they give you a URL which you could put in the text file. Anyone who finds your USB stick hopefully will open the text file. You could put a message thanking them for opening the file and that you’d be most grateful if you could get in touch with the owner by clicking the URL. This would send them to a form at whspr where they can send you an email message. whspr forwards the message to your email address and now you can get in touch with the finder whose email is on the form. The URL lasts for up to 365 days so you have to remember to renew it before then. So set up an email or text reminder with your reminder app, for example Task.fm, to remind you say a week before the URL expires and get a new URL from whspr.

Hopefully, these tips should help you minimize the loss of a USB stick. Have you any tips? Drop a comment below.

Image credit: jatop


Feb 4

feedburner_logo

Another Google Reader topic today to follow on from my last post. This annoyance has been bugging me for a while and I’ve found a solution to it today.

More and more webmasters and bloggers are using FeedBurner to manage their RSS feeds. FeedBurner has introduced a feature which allows tracking of feed clicks in Google Analytics so as to track visitors from FeedBurner feeds. Problem is that when Google Analytics tracks FeedBurner visitors, it appends the feed item URL with Google Analytics tags, e.g. utm_source=feedburner, utm_medium=feed, etc. I’m sure you’ve all seen this. If you hover over the link to the feed URL in Google Reader before clicking it, it will start something like http://feedproxy.google.com…. Just as an example, here’s what appeared in the browser address bar after I clicked a link in Google Reader to a web page on Techie Buzz:

http://techie-buzz.com/google-chrome/google-chrome-now-supports-greasemonkey-scripts.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+techiebuzz+%28Techie+buzz%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

Pretty ugly. If you now bookmark that web page in Delicious or Diigo, all the tracking stuff is included in the link. I don’t know about you but I just want to bookmark the URL of the web page without all that tracking data. So from the above URL, I just want:

http://techie-buzz.com/google-chrome/google-chrome-now-supports-greasemonkey-scripts.html

You could of course delete all that stuff off the end before you bookmark it, but there’s a simpler way to remove this tracking data in Firefox and Google Chrome. In Firefox, it involves installing a Greasemonkey script, while in Chrome you just install an extension.

Firefox: Greasemonkey script to remove FeedBurner tracking data

First you have to install Greasemonkey. If you haven’t already done this, visit my last post for more info. Then install the FeedBurner Tracking Query Stripper from here. Once installed, when you click a link in Google Reader, the URL will load initially showing the tracking data then, after a second or two, it will magically disappear.

Chrome: Unburner extension to remove Feedburner tracking data

If Google Chrome is your browser, then install the Unburner extension from here. Again, once installed, when you click a link in Google Reader, the URL will load initially showing the tracking data then it will be stripped out.

Now when you follow a link in Google Reader in Firefox or Chrome, all the tracking analytics will be stripped out and the web page will load as it should.


Feb 1

I spend well over an hour a day going through my 250 feed subscriptions in Google Reader. I always work in List View so I can skim through the post titles as quickly as possible. If the title of the post doesn’t look interesting to me, I move right along. Anything that would speed up working through the feeds would improve my productivity. What I really needed was a way to filter out stuff so that I didn’t have to read uninteresting posts and at the same time that highlighted stuff of real interest.

Coincidentally, I found the answer I needed when browsing through though the posts in Google Reader, and it’s a real gem. Thanks to Arpit Kumar at Techie Buzz for blogging this great tip about filtering within Google Reader. Don’t worry, it’s real easy to install and set up so please try it out.

Google Reader Filter

Installation in Firefox is a two-stage process. First you have to install Greasemonkey then the feed filter. But first what’s Greasemonkey? Well it’s just a Firefox extension that allows you to customize the way webpages look and function. So first download and install the Greasemonkey Firefox extension from the Greasespot homepage. It will install just like any other Firefox addon, and you’ll probably have to restart your browser. Once it’s back open, you should see a Greasemonkey icon in the lower right corner of the browser window. Now you can add Greasemonkey scripts. Hundreds have been written and are available here but today we’re going to install the Google Reader Filter script available here. Just click install on that page and then reload Google Reader.

Google reader filter1

You’ll see a new blue button called Filter settings at the top right of the Google Reader window as shown above. If you click on that you can add filter words to exclude or highlight posts in your list.

Google reader filter2

As you can see, if the post title has excluded words, the title will show as greyed out and if highlighted words are present, the title will be highlighted in green as shown above. If you check the box Hide excludes, you can drop the post completely if you like. Checking the box Prefer Highlights over excludes will highlight the post if it contains both highlighted and excluded words. Checking Hide duplicates does just what it says and any duplicate post titles in the list are excluded. The words in your filter list don’t appear to be case-sensitive. I did notice that if the word in the title is followed by a full point it won’t be excluded unless you add the word followed by a full point to the excluded list. If there’s a colon, dash or exclamation mark directly after the word in the title, it will be excluded or highlighted.

So now, in my case, I can filter out any feeds with the words iPad, Norton, etc., because I’m just not interested in these topics and my time can be more productively used reading other posts. At the same time, any topic I’m particularly interested in like Windows 7 will be highlighted and I can prioritise reading these posts if I want. Now, as I read post titles, when I spot further words I can add them to the filter.

I’ve set up the filter in Firefox on my Windows and Linux machines and they both work great. And yes I know, it’s yet another Firefox extension which is probably going to slow your browser even further. But if reading feeds in Google Reader is important for you then this is a must-have extension. And of course you can use Greasemonkey to run other scripts too. At the moment unfortunately, this filter doesn’t work in the Google Chrome browser.

All in all, a really simple way to filter your feeds within Google Reader and improve your productivity. I recommend you try it out and see what you think.


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