Mike Williams

Black Menu for Google Chrome: an easier way to access Google tools

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Google offers many different services, and switching between them isn’t difficult. If you’re at Google News, say, click the Apps icon top right and you’ll see buttons for Search, Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Maps and more: just click whatever you need to launch that page.

This is simple enough, but not ideal. You need to be at one Google service before you can launch another; whatever you select replaces the current page, and there are at least two clicks required. If you’re a Chrome user then Black Menu for Google could provide an easier solution.

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ZoneAlarm enhances protection of its paid products

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Zone Labs has updated its ZoneAlarm range to version 13.0.208.000.

ZoneAlarm Free users probably shouldn’t get too excited, as the only significant change they’ll notice is that the Privacy Toolbar finally works with Internet Explorer 11.

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What really happens when you press Ctrl+C? Clipboard Format Spy has the answers

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In theory, the Windows clipboard seems very simple. Select something, press Ctrl+C and it’s copied there; click somewhere else, press Ctrl+V and it’s pasted. Easy.

Then again, sometimes you’ll try to paste something and find the formatting is messed up, or you just don’t get what you expected. What’s happening? The free Clipboard Format Spy may be able to help.

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Study audio files in detail with Sonic Visualiser

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Open an audio file, and most people just want to listen to it. If there’s a play button, a volume control, maybe a simple equalizer, they’ll be happy enough.

If you’re interested in studying the audio, though -- viewing individual channels, estimating beat or tempo, checking pitch and key, extracting harmony or chords -- then media players won’t be able to help. You’ll need a specialist tool like the open source Sonic Visualiser.

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Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 2.0: new look, new engine

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Malwarebytes has announced the release of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 2.0, its flagship security tool.

A new heuristics engine detects malware based on its behavior, rather than signatures. The integration of Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit further enhances its protection, and Anti-Malware’s interface has been completely redesigned for a simpler, more modern look.

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Stop users running specific applications with Program Blocker

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AppLocker is an interesting Windows 7/ 8 feature which helps you control which installers, programs and scripts a PC user can run, while blocking everything else. It’s effective, and flexible -- but only included in the high-end Windows editions (Enterprise, Ultimate and Server).

Fortunately there are other tools which also claim they can limit what users can run on a PC, and Program Blocker, from The Windows Club, is the latest example.

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Take charge of your HOSTS file with hostsController

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Editing your PCs HOSTS file can help you block ads, restrict access to certain websites, or just get more control over your network traffic.

You could make all this happen with nothing more than Notepad, but it’s not exactly straightforward, and installing a copy of the free hostsController will make your life very much easier.

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Uncover hidden PC troubleshooting messages with Trace Spy

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Software can fail for all kinds of reasons, but most programs will make at least some effort to explain the problem. Usually this is an error message, but it can also be worth checking the program logs, and maybe the Windows Event Viewer.

There is a more hidden option, though: some options generate debug output with low-level technical details on what they’re doing. This is intended to help developers troubleshoot any problems, but the messages are available to anyone -- and all they need is a copy of Trace Spy.

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Pretty Run is a versatile desktop search tool

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The standard Windows Search tool has improved a great deal in recent years, and the latest Windows 8.1 additions -- especially its Bing integration -- are another welcome step forward.

The technology still won't be enough for everyone, though. And so if you're looking for a more configurable, desktop search tool, you might like to try the free Pretty Run.

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Express Points: a simple free presentation tool with PPTX import

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Express Points 1.04 is the latest release from Australian developer NCH Software, a lightweight free presentation tool for Windows and Mac.

We really do mean "lightweight", too. Both installers packages are around 1MB in size, and they don’t download anything else: a full installation is barely 4MB in size.

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Scan pages directly to PDF with STP

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Converting a printed document to PDF can sometimes be a complicated process, where you must import the pages into a graphics tool, clean them up, then pass the results on to something else to generate the final document.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Creating PDFs from scanned images can be quick and easy, and it certainly doesn’t require heavyweight applications: a tiny portable tool could provide everything you need.

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Create contact sheets of your videos with Thumbnail me

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Thumbnail me is an open source Windows and Linux tool which extracts frames from a video, then presents them as a single image, a quick and easy way to preview the movie’s contents.

The program imports most common video types: AVI, MP4, MPG, VOB, MOV, MKV, TS/ M2TS, FLV, 3GP, OGG, SWF and more.

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Macrium Reflect boosts performance, gains GRUB2 support

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Paramount Software has updated Macrium Reflect to 5.2.6504, and despite the very minor-sounding version number, it actually includes several important changes.

The company claims that backup performance has been improved by an impressive 30 percent or more.

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Copy websites locally for offline browsing with Cyotek WebCopy

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Cyotek WebCopy is a clever tool which copies all or part of a website to your hard drive for offline browsing.

Grabbing a small and simple site is easy: just enter a URL in the "Website" box, and choose the Copy option. Cyotek WebCopy downloads that page, and any links (within the same domain), then repeats the process until it’s done. And then you’re able to view the local copy of any page, and browse it as though you were online.

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Split, combine, encrypt, compress: jPDF Tweak is a one-stop PDF toolkit

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jPDF Tweak is an open source Java Swing application which provides a host of ways to customize, adjust and work with PDF files.

You can split or combine documents, for instance. There are crop, rotate and scaling options. Or you can apply text or image watermarks.

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