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5 Essential Desktop (and Laptop) Apps You Didn’t Know You Needed

5 Essential Desktop (and Laptop) Apps You Didn’t Know You Needed

It’s easy to forget in a world of Android and iOS, but most people are still rocking some sort of personal computer these days. Everyone should have a list of programs they regularly install on a new system, like a quality web browser and some sort of anti-virus protection. But what about the things you didn’t know you needed? Here’s a quick list of programs you should strongly consider installing, whether you have a massive gaming rig or an impossibly thin ultrabook. They’re there when you need them, and you’ll start to need them more than you might think.

1. VLC Media Player (free)

vlc player

    Forget everything you know about video players. Don’t even bother messing with finicky, bloated apps like Windows Media Player or iTunes. This is the one and only program you need. It plays everything you can possibly throw at it; the developers actually pride themselves at how many different codecs it can handle. You can snag it for pretty much any operating system, and it takes up almost no space. It’s the go-to application for obscure video and audio formats, but VLC’s lightweight nature makes it ideal for mainstream stuff as well.

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    Download VLC at the official website.

    2. XBMC (free)

    xbmc

      If having an all-in-one media center suite is more your style, you might want to go for XBMC. It works on almost every platform, and fully supports remote control (including Xbox controllers, if you have one). The developers are constantly throwing cool new features at the project. Want it to automatically tag and organize your movie library with box art, years, ratings, cast and crew listings, etc.? It can do that. Want it to grab subtitles from the internet for the foreign film you just put on? It can do that too. VLC is a bit better for spontaneous media consumption, but XBMC is the way to go for your established movie collection.

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      Grab the latest release of XBMC on the program’s website.

      3. Facebook Messenger for Windows (free, Windows only)

      Messenger for Windows

        The guys at Facebook don’t always make this perfectly clear, but there actually is a standalone first party desktop app for the site’s Messenger service. The program functions pretty similar to AOL Instant Messenger, and does the job you’d expect it to do. It’s a nice way to keep the chat interface open while being able to navigate away from the actual site on your browser. Facebook has a long ways to go in terms of fleshing out its features, but this is the best solution for the time being.

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        Head over to the Messenger for Windows website to download a copy.

        4. Stardock Start8 ($3.99, Windows 8 only)

        start8

          Those of you who have long bemoaned the loss of a traditional Start menu in Windows 8 should consider checking out Start8. It’s a fully functional Start menu clone that works almost identically to the official thing in Windows 7. No more convoluted paths to shut down the computer or haphazardly searching for the programs you need. In typical Stardock fashion, the program also includes a ton of customization options, and retains the ability to access the Metro UI if you still need to do so.

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          Purchase a copy or download the trial at the Start8 website.

          5. SpaceSniffer (free, Windows only)

          SpaceSniffer

            Over time, every computer tends to get bogged down with unnecessary files. Finding and tracking them down can be a daunting task, but SpaceSniffer makes it easy. This program scans your drive of choice and makes a “map” of its used and free space. You can see what’s taking up precious disk space, and delete it or move it to different drives right on the screen. A must-have for solid state drive users, and recommended still for those of you with normal hard drives.

            Download SpaceSniffer on the Uderzo website.

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            Last Updated on February 19, 2020

            11 Google Chrome Apps & Features for Getting More Done with Less Effort

            11 Google Chrome Apps & Features for Getting More Done with Less Effort

            In today’s fast-paced and never-ending busy world, we are overwhelmed by tasks that need to be completed by tight deadlines. With so much technology it is difficult to find the right tools to help boost our efficiency. And, many tools get obsolete so its essential to stay up-to-date to know when you will have to make adjustments to these tools. Independently of where you work, there’s a good chance that you have to be working on a PC or a laptop.

            Do you are feel like you do not have enough time, or cannot accomplish much as of late? It is recommended to take a step back and look at the big picture. Also, you want to explore new and innovative ways to improve productivity.

            In this article, I outline 11 features and apps within the Chrome browser that can help you do just that.

            Minimizing Tabs

            Let’s face it we all have more than a dozen tabs opened on our computers. One neat trick to still keep most of them open is to turn them into pinned tabs. On Google Chrome you can right-click the tab and select “Pin Tab” option. This turns the tab into an icon enabling you to continue multitasking.

            Pinning a tab anchors the tabs on the left of your toolbar; a great benefit of the “Pin Tab” feature is that you can’t close these tabs accidentally since the “X” disappears after pinning them.

            Incognito Mode

            Google Chrome is a very easy-to-use and intuitive. But, Google does collect our browsing data; so to remedy this, you can use Incognito Mode. This feature does not keep your browsing or download history. You can enable or access it in three different ways:

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            1. Press Ctrl/Command+shift+N
            2. Select File Menu and choose New Incognito Window
            3. Download extension New Incognito Window

            This feature is very handy if you’d rather not have your browsing history stored and utilized for future advertisement or suggested pages.

            Save Webpages as PDF Files

            Have you ever browsed interesting or important information and then forgot to bookmark or save it in “favorites”, making it impossible to find again? Chances are you have done this on a number of occasions.

            Thankfully, there is an easy solution. You can save webpages as PDF files. On your keyboard, press control/command+p and you will be able to save webpages as PDFs.

            Open Recently-closed Tabs

            Ever had dozens of tabs opened and all of a sudden your browser shuts down? It has probably happened to all of us. You can easily recover all of your tabs using two approaches. Don’t panic if this happens because there is a workaround and solution for it.

            One is by pressing Ctrl/CMD+Shift+T.

            The other approach is to click on the three vertical dots on your browser and hover over “History”.

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            Solve Mathematical Problems

            Google’s Chrome browser doesn’t just search for relevant and updated information. It is also capable of performing some mathematical problems. Within the omnibox (Chrome’s address or URL bar), you can perform mathematical exercises.

            For example, if you are struggling with percentages you can search 20 percent of x amount and it will instantly provide a result. Pretty handy, right?!

            Play Media Files

            Are you frequently met with difficulties when playing or watch a video files? Well, once again Chrome comes to the rescue. You can can listen or play videos from all sorts of movie or music files (mp3, mp4, .mov, .mkv, .ogv, .webm, .wav, etc.) by simply dragging the file into the search bar.

            In addition, you can view images, PDF files and Microsoft Office files, too.

            Navigate Swiftly Between Tabs

            With all of those tabs opened comes great navigation responsibilities. Rather than clicking through every tab, you can use shortcut keys like Ctrl+Tab to navigate all of the different tabs. Also, you are able to navigate to the first tab by pressing Ctrl-1, Ctrl-2, and so on. If you want to switch to the very last tab, press Ctrl-9.

            Stay Focus(e)d

            Computers nowadays have awesome capabilities.

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            Sometimes we like to get work done, but let’s face it, we’re all human. We sometimes procrastinate by visiting a website we really like, or maybe take a break with watching a flick on Netflix, a video on YouTube or browsing Facebook.

            With Chrome’s StayFocusd extension, you can truly stay focused and get more done in less time.

            This extension naturally helps you stay more productive by limiting the amount of time you spend on websites. You can set the time and it will automatically block those sites after a certain period.

            Grammarly for Editing

            Grammarly is a must have, and it’s really a complete powerhouse. Grammarly helps you check your grammar and spelling for everything you write online.

            You can use it professionally or as a student, which will make the editing process much easier and more efficient. Furthermore, it can automatically check for typos when you send an email, type a Tweet, or post a Facebook comment. It’s like having your own personal copyeditor!

            Loom

            There are times that words in an email or written text in a chat app will just not convey the right meaning.

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            There is a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, the same is true of videos.

            With Loom, you can capture, narrate and immediately share video recordings of your screen, which will help coworkers understand issues you are facing, or to easily convey an explanation on screen. Plus, with video you will be able to easily walk people through a process, and you can use it to create simple how-to videos.

            Chrome Calendar Extension

            No matter what your level of responsibility is at your job, Google Calendar is another essential resource to have at your fingertips.

            Specifically, you can have this extension added as an icon in the toolbar of your browser, which I highly recommend. Once you add the extension to your browser, you can check for upcoming events with a single click without leaving your current page.

            Final Thoughts

            Google Chrome has definitely evolved from its inception. As you can see you have a very powerful tool that comes as a free installation and is loaded with dozens of capabilities. The above listed Chrome apps can resolve some of the most common obstacles to your time management and productivity.

            Featured photo credit: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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