Most PC users could benefit from working at the command line occasionally, but the rather basic interface is enough to put most people off. You don’t have to live with the standard Windows setup, though. There are plenty of tools which claim they can help, and one of the latest, ConsoleHoster, improves on the default command window in several ways.
Getting started with the program is certainly very easy. Download, unzip and launch it (there’s no installation required), click "Project 1" and your first command session appears. The blue text on a green background is a little distracting, but otherwise it’s straightforward enough. The main part of the window is split into two panes; you enter your commands in the lower, and any output appears above it.
If you’ve installed multiple operating systems on a PC then normally, when your system starts, you’ll have to choose the one you need from a boot menu. And while this isn’t difficult in any way, it can be a minor irritation, especially if you’re switching between operating systems on a regular basis.
Install Reboot-To, though, and you’ll have another option. When you need to restart your PC, just choose one of your installed operating systems from the Reboot-To menu -- Window Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Ubuntu (wubi) and Ubuntu Server (wubi) are supported -- and it’ll reboot directly into that OS, without you ever seeing the boot menu at all.
They may be just about the most primitive form of computer animation there is, but animated GIFs can still be fun, and genuinely useful, so it’s a shame they’re not more widely supported on the PC. Most programs will just display the opening frame, at best, leaving you to guess at everything else.
There are ways around this, to some extent. Right-click a GIF in Explorer, for instance, select Open With > Internet Explorer, and a browser window will open and play the animation. This is a long way from being convenient, though, so if you’d like easier playback -- and a lot more besides -- then you’re sure to prefer 7GIF.
Designing a great image editor has always been a tricky balancing act. It’s important that the program has real power, plenty of useful functionality, and delivers more than you’d expect in every area. But at the same time, it should ideally be lightweight, easy to use, the kind of tool you can be using productively in just a few minutes.
Most image editors fall short in at least one area, of course, but there are occasional exceptions. And Hornil StylePix is a great example. This lightweight and portable program concentrates on the core editing essentials -- transforms, color and image corrections, painting, text tools and more -- so isn’t weighed down with functions you’ll never need. But the features you do get are very well implemented, with a host of powerful options helping to deliver far more control than you might expect from a free tool.
PC storage space is cheap these days, and if you’ve just bought one of the latest 4TB drives then the chances are you won’t be worried about filling it any time soon.
It’s still important not to waste hard drive space, of course: the more clutter you have, the longer your file searches, virus scans, defrags and other system-wide operations will take. Understanding what’s stored on your hard drive is a key part of PC maintenance, then, and Disk Sorter Free could be the ideal program to help.
If you need to access an FTP server, perhaps to upload the latest version of your website, then you’ll probably reach for your favorite FTP client. But although that will transfer your files, it’s not exactly a convenient solution, particularly if you need to work with the server on a regular basis.
NetDrive is a free (for personal use) tool which can greatly simplify this process. If you find you’re frequently working with a particular FTP or WebDav server then the program can mount it as a new drive in Explorer, and you’ll be able to access it -- create, delete and rename folders, transfer and launch files -- just like any other drive on your system.
IObit has announced the public availability of IObit Malware Fighter 2.0, the next generation of its popular anti-malware tool.
The most obvious change this time is the move to a Windows 8-style interface: large tiles, stark black background, and everything happening in a single window, rather than separate dialogs. It looks good, and is easy to use.
If you’re viewing a PDF and find an image you’d like to reuse, then extracting it is usually easy enough: just right-click the picture, select Copy, and it’ll be sent to the clipboard, ready for pasting wherever you need.
This approach isn’t exactly convenient if you want to extract a large number of images, though. And it may not work with some PDF files, or other file and document types. In situations like these, what you really need is a more automated approach, a program which can extract the JPEGs from almost anything – and that’s exactly what deJPEG claims to do.
Deleting files on a PC is normally very easy. But sometimes, just occasionally, Windows will tell you that it can’t help because the file is "in use". And that can quickly become very frustrating, especially if you can’t see why the file is open, or it’s something you really need to delete (a malware component, say).
To resolve this you should try closing all running applications, rebooting, perhaps try to delete the file from Safe Mode. But if this doesn’t work then you could always turn to ForceDel, a tiny command line tool which can forcibly delete files, even if they’re open in another application.
Microsoft’s decision to drop the Start menu in Windows 8 has caused plenty of controversy, but fortunately it’s made little difference to the end user. Developers quickly realized that many people really don’t like the new interface at all, and they’ve produced a host of free tools to help make Windows 8 look and feel as much like Windows 7 as possible.
Start Menu Reviver, though, has a different aim. Instead of ignoring Microsoft’s Modern UI, it adapts it, with configurable tiles rather than text links. There’s good integration with Windows 8, including the ability to launch Start Screen apps from your desktop. But at the same time, it’s not tied to Windows 8 systems: if you like the look, you can install and run the program on Windows 7, too.
Converting videos from one format to another can be a complicated business, so it’s no surprise that most conversion tools focus on ease of use above all else. But this can also mean the programs lose a great deal of functionality. Encoders such as FFmpeg -- the engine behind many free converters -- are absolutely packed with features, but the need for simplicity means most of these aren’t accessible to the end user.
There are some projects which take a different view, though, and TEncoder is a good example. This is a converter which isn’t afraid to expose options and settings, and at first glance this makes for a cluttered and intimidating interface. But look past that and you’ll find a tool which manages to be both powerful, and (once you know where everything is) generally very easy to use.
If you’ve created a website and want to test it properly, then you could get some web space, upload all your files and see how everything looks. But that’s not always too convenient, especially if you have to make several changes, as you’ll need to upload the tweaked files each time.
The whole development process can be much faster if you run a web server on your own PC, then. And while this can be complicated -- especially if you try to download and install each component individually -- it doesn’t have to be that way. Especially if you grab a copy of Uniform Server.
If you’re worried about your PC’s RAM or CPU usage, then installing a system monitor can sometimes be useful. This will usually give you an on-screen display indicating when there’s a high demand for your system’s resources, so alerting you to potential problems as soon as they happen, and perhaps helping you to figure out the cause.
Having this extra on-screen display can be a problem, though. Usually you either have to free up a little space for a desktop gadget, or you’re left to peer at some tiny system tray indicator. So it’s good to see RAM CPU Taskbar take a different route, by using your entire taskbar as a CPU and memory meter.
From docks to desktop gadgets, the Start menu to the Start screen, there are many ways to launch applications on your PC. But most of these are quite bulky, giving you a new interface to explore, and perhaps tying up valuable screen real estate.
If you’re looking for something simpler, then, more lightweight, then you might be interested in a new Firefox add-on called Easy Access.
When you need to distribute a particular set of images – or perhaps reconstruct some scanned pages into a digital version of the original document – then being able to combine those JPGs into a single PDF can be very useful. There are commercial tools which will handle this for you, but if your needs are simple then there’s no need to spend big money; the free (for personal use) JPGasPDF could provide everything you need.
The program is compact (a single 572KB executable), with a basic straightforward interface. If you’re in a hurry you could just click the Add button to select your images, the Create button to save the finished PDF, and, well, that’s it -- your document will be saved right away.