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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 15, 2019

            7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

            7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

            Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

            Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

            Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

            So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

            Joe’s Goals

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              Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

              Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

              Daytum

                Daytum

                is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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                Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

                Excel or Numbers

                  If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

                  What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

                  Evernote

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                    I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

                    Evernote is free with a premium version available.

                    Access or Bento

                      If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

                      Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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                      You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

                      Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

                      All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

                      Conclusion

                      I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

                      What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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