August 21, 2017

Why You Should Replace Windows’ Default Image Viewer With IrfanView

As its featureset expanded, Windows became something of an omnibus. It now includes not one, but two built-in browsers, a defragmentation tool, and even Candy Crush. But like most do-it-all tools, just because Windows can do almost everything doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do anything. So it is with the default photo viewer.

The Need For Speed(y Image Processing and Display)

An image viewer might seem like a somewhat mundane portion of your operating system to upgrade, and of course most people don’t think to do so. But in situations where you’re handling large image files in exotic formats, it can be a necessity. Third-party tools like IrfanView may not be as aesthetically pleasing as Windows’ photo viewer, but they’re more powerful, more flexible, and faster than the operating system’s default.
I first started looking for a more powerful option while working as a graphic designer in a sign shop way back in the aughts. On a Pentium 4 machine that chugged to run Photoshop and Illustrator, I made custom advertising banners and cutouts, sometimes thirty feet wide and a gigabyte or two thanks to hours and hours of work. Rasterizing the files for the printer would sometimes take half an hour. So using the default Windows XP image viewer, which sometimes couldn’t even open the file formats I had to save in, didn’t work well.

During my time in the printshop, I used an underpowered PC to make massive banners for retailers and events.
Even on medium-sized images with complex effects, trying to load them with the default Windows XP image viewer was painfully slow, sometimes only a few seconds faster than booting up the cumbersome Photoshop program from a cold start. It was clear I needed something with a little more under the hood.
You don’t need to be a graphic designer to get the benefit of a faster, more broadly-compatible image viewer. With DSLRs shooting thousands of images in RAW and even cell phone cameras eager to bust through new megapixel barriers, speed is of the essence, especially if you’re using it on a low-power laptop or tablet.

IrfanView Beats the Windows Default With a Stick

After a bit of searching for something better than the Windows default, I found IrfanView. The tiny, funny-sounding application is designed for two things: maximum file type support and ludicrous speed. (If you think the name sounds weird, it gets it from its Bosnian creator, Irfan Skiljan.) The program has been in continual development for over twenty years, and it’s free for personal use.

After installing it on that old office clunker, I was immediately able to load up huge images in a preview view almost instantly. What the program lacks in sartorial splendor it makes up in speed and flexibility, and I soon set it as the default image viewer for every format except full Photoshop and Illustrator files. The program allows for a few extra tools like permanent rotation, copying and pasting, and toolbar customization, and its already-extensive file support can be extended even further with plugins.

IrfanView opens this huge Game of Thrones infographic project in a fraction of a second.
Digging deeper into the program reveals some thoughtful extras, like an Optical Character Recognition tool (it can “read” text on an image and export it to an editable text format), and even basic video and audio playback plus some editing tools. It won’t replace Photoshop anytime soon, but if you need some cropping or to block something out, it’ll do. Those who want a minimal interface or custom zooming steps or even a slideshow mode that stretches across multiple monitors will find what they’re looking for.
Look at all those user-selectable options. Hubba hubba!
Even though I now only use my high-powered, home-built machine for graphic design, I’ve kept IrfanView installed up to Windows 10. Why use something slower with fewer features?


July 25, 2017

Top 7 Free MS Paint Alternatives You Can Use

MS Paint is a simple, basic image creator and manipulator that was originally introduced in 1985 with Windows 1.0, and has shipped with all subsequent versions of the operating system. It’s the first painting application of any sort that I personally used on a computer back in the 90s, and even though I’ve graduated to more robust image editing software over the years, it still felt a little odd when Microsoft added it to the growing list of Windows features that will be deprecated in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Sure, it will still be available for download on the Windows Store, but you’ll have to do so manually, as it won’t available on your computer right out the box. So from now on, since you have to download an image editor manually while running Windows anyways, let’s take a look at the 7 best free MS Paint alternatives that you can download instead:

1. Paint.NET

Paint.NET is a free photo-editing software that comes with the simplicity of the built-in Microsoft program, but adds enough new features to make it not just a viable MS Paint alternative, but actually a more robust and feature-filled replacement for it. Unlike MS Paint, it comes with support for layers, blending, transparency, special effects, unlimited undo and many other useful tools, but the best thing about it is the wide array of effect, adjustment and file type plugins, not to mention all the tutorials that you’ll get on the official forums from an active and involved community of developers, users and enthusiasts.

While Paint.NET is one of the most popular image-editing programs on Windows, it is, unfortunately, not available on any other platform. So if you’re using a Mac or Linux, you’ll need to take a look at some of the following examples that are available on multiple desktop platforms.
Download: Free (Windows)

2. MyPaint

Unlike Paint.NET, MyPaint is a free and open source (FOSS) alternative to MS Paint that is available on Windows, Mac and Linux. The program focuses more on the painting aspect rather than image manipulation and, comes with a boatload of features that belies its simple user interface. It comes with dynamic brush library that simulate pencil, charcoal and ink, but advanced users can also create their own customized brushes to suit their needs.

MyPaint supports all the major file formats, has support for layer management, as well as an ‘unlimited canvas’, which means you won’t have to preset the image size before starting off on your painting. MyPaint is basically a free and relatively more basic alternative to Corel Paint, so as you’d expect, it comes with support for pressure sensitive graphics tablets like the ones from Wacom or Huion.
Download: Free (Windows, macOS, Linux)

3. IrfanView

Released in 1996 for Windows 95 by developer Irfan Skiljan, IrfanView is yet another feature-filled yet easy-to-use image editor that has gotten extremely popular over the past couple of decades. It is free for non-commercial use, and comes with a wide variety of third-party plugins for image, video and sound formats that can be added to the program to extend its already long list of functionality even further. Although it’s technically only available for Windows, it can also be run on Linux under Wine and on Mac using WineBottler.

While the program is chock-a-block with features, it is extremely lightweight, occupying barely about 2MB of disk space, and even the installation of the optional plugins only require about 17MB space overall. The program also offers full support for a bewildering array of file formats, including JPEG, JPEG2000, JP2, BMP, GIF, PNG, TIFF, RAW and many more.
Download: Free (Windows)

4. Pinta

Pinta is a free and open source image editor that is distributed under the MIT X11 license and is available on all three major desktop platforms – Windows, Mac and Linux. The software offers all the basic features you’d expect from an image editing software circa 2017, including annotations, drawing, color adjustment, unlimited undo and more. The program also offers advanced features like support for image layers, something that you’re unlikely to find in more basic image editors.

The original creator of Pinta, Jonathan Probst, has gone on record saying that his software was inspired by Paint.NET, which itself was intended to be an open source replacement for MS Paint. However, for the most part, Pinta comes with its own original code, with only the adjustments and effects code borrowed from Paint.NET. Pinta is hosted on Github and is under active development, although, Probst is no longer associated with the project.
Download: Free (Windows, macOS, Linux)

5. Paintbrush

So we’ve taken a look at quite a few free and open source software for Windows and Linux, but only a few of them are available for Mac. If that’s making all you Mac-owners feel a little left out, here’s one that you should try if you’re looking for a basic, free image editor and annotator for Macs. Paintbrush is a free and open source program that’s available only for Mac, and was originally intended to be a replacement for MacPaint – an archaic image manipulation software that was last released almost three decades ago back in the late ’80s. Like Paint, it is also a very basic software with a simple interface, and comes with freehand drawing, an eraser, a spray can and a few other simple annotation tools.

Paintbrush is probably one of the least powerful software on this list, and is only a simple 2D bitmap editor with no vector capabilities. However, you can still save edited and annotated images as PNG, JPG, BMP, GIF and TIFF.
Download: Free (macOS)

6. Greenshot

Greenshot is yet another free and open source editing and annotation software that is available for Windows under the GNU Public License. Greenshot is s great MS Paint alternative if you mostly used the built-in Windows program to save screenshots on your PC. That’s because Greenshot specializes in screenshots, and can be used to create, annotate and edit them. The program comes with several optional plugins for Office, Imgur, Dropbox, Flickr and Confluence, among others. The program allows its users to resize, rotate or crop images, and just like Paint, even annotate them with rectangles, ellipses, lines and arrows.

Greenshot is a very capable program that’s light on resources but heavy on features. It is extremely configurable, and unlike the default PrtScn tool, even gives you an option to capture the mouse cursor in your image. The program combines a great screenshot tool with a neat little image editor and extreme configurability.
Download: Free (Windows)

7. Paint 3D

Last, but definitely not the least, those looking to replace MS Paint on their Windows PCs should take a serious look at the more grown-up version of Microsoft’s age-old image editing software. Called Paint 3D, the all-new iteration of Microsoft’s iconic software is a part of the Windows 10 Creators Update, and is one of the many new 3D applications that are now available for download from the Windows store, including View 3D and 3D Builder. As you’d expect, Paint 3D is a lightweight app that draws heavily from its predecessor, but comes with support for 3D elements including humans, animals, geometric shapes, texts and doodles.

While Paint 3D is an enormous improvement over its predecessor, it still got ways to go before it catches up with some of the other programs mentioned on his list. In fact, while it brings many new features to the table, it also misses out on some absolute bare-basic features, like multi-window support. Overall, Paint 3D is a decent program that’s well worth a look, but there are also other, more powerful free MS paint alternatives.
Download: Free (Windows)

MS Paint Alternatives: The Best Free Photo Editing Software For Your Computer

While MS Paint will still be available for download from the Windows Store, it will cease to be the default photo editing application on Windows PCs like it has been for decades now. But nostalgia or not, we need to appreciate that the program has outlived its utility even circa 2017, and while it can still perform bare basic tasks, there are other options available that can do the same with much more panache, and much more efficacy, but without the steep learning curve that comes with programs like Photoshop or GIMP. So what do you use for your everyday image editing needs? Do leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


April 13, 2017

How To Download And Install Internet Explorer 11 For Windows 7

Internet Explorer 11 is a milestone in Microsoft’s evolution towards a fast and modern web browser that found its force again thanks to improvements in security, performance, privacy and standards support. Windows 8.1 users know it very well as it is the built-in browser of this operating system, but in this tutorial we will talk about the version built for Windows 7. Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 is an important Windows update and its installation is recommended for all users. But before we can see what this browser has to offer, let us, first, see how you can download and install it on your Windows 7 computer.
This tutorial will cover two methods of installing Internet Explorer 11 on your Windows 7 computer. The first one is based upon using Windows Update. The second one involves an old fashioned download from the official web-page of Internet Explorer 11.

How To Install Internet Explorer 11 Via Windows Update

It goes without saying that this is the easier method you can use to install Internet Explorer. First you have to go to Windows Update by using either this path "Control Panel - > System and Security - > Windows Update", or just by typing "windows update" in the Start Menu search box.

Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
Then do a check for the latest updates. In the list of Optional Updates you should see one that says Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7. Select it and then click OK.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
For the installation procedure to start, you have to click on the Install updates button. For more information about the installation procedure of updates, check out this article: Check for Windows Updates, Learn What They Do & Block Those You Don’t Need.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
After Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 and any other update you have selected are downloaded, the installation will start.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
This new streamlined installation will finish in a few minutes and shortly after, it will ask you to restart your computer to finish the whole process. The necessary file and services cannot be updated if the system is still using them. So just press the Restart now button from the Windows Update window and wait until the computer restarts.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
Once this is done, the Internet Explorer 11 shortcut will be placed in your Taskbar.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
Now meet your new browser…
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7

How To Install Internet Explorer 11 As A Standalone Download

It is also possible to download Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 yourself and install it manually on your computer. You first have to go to the official download page via Internet Explorer 9 or 10, or any other browser and you will receive an appropriate download link. Of course, it is also possible for you to choose the language of the browser.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
If you are using another browser, you need to select which Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 you want to download and install. This situation appears if you access the download page for the offline installer. Here, you will find an alphabetized list of languages where you will have to choose between the 32-bit or 64-bit versions, and then press the download button. This webpage has a little more complicated interface, but a more simple way to find your desired version and language.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
Take into account the fact that you can also use the first download link on a non-Microsoft browser, for the less complicated download procedure. You will receive a 53.3Mb.exe file, which is the actual offline installer and not a file downloader.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
Then, you just have to run the downloaded installer. You will receive a separate prompt, that asks you to confirm that you really want to install Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7. How Microsoft-ish is this, right? Click on Install.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
Wait for the installation process to finish, and then you will be asked to reboot your computer. Be sure to save all of you ongoing work and then, press the Restart now button.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7
After restarting Windows, Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 should be installed on your computer.
Internet Explorer, 11, install, get, Windows 7


As you can see from this tutorial, installing Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 is not exactly rocket science. It has a streamlined installation, but one that, unfortunately, still requires you to close your applications and restart your computer. If you have any problems or questions, do not hesitate to use the comments form below.


March 6, 2017

How to edit PDF documents for free

The following guide provides you with information on how to edit PDF documents using tools that are available for free online or as desktop programs.
The PDF file format, originally created by Adobe, is a popular format for a wide variety of documents from presentations and invoices over forms and legal documents, to comics and books.
One of the main appeals of the format is that it preserves the original formatting, and that PDF documents can be loaded on desktop and mobile devices, as well as online easily.
Other features of interest include that it is not super easy to edit PDF documents, and that restrictions may be set that prevent others from printing or copying documents.

Edit PDF documents for free

PDF files cannot be edited in the same way that Word or plain text documents can be edited. If you load a PDF in a viewer application, that is all you get. You can read the document, print it if it is allowed, and that is about it.
While you can use commercial grade software like Adobe Acrobat for editing PDF documents, there are plenty of free solutions out there that may be sufficient for your tasks.
It all depends primarily on what you want to edit. If you want to make complex edits, free tools may not be sufficient for that.
We look at basic, advanced and specialized PDF editing tools in the sections that follow.



Basic PDF editing: Online PDF Editors



free online pdf editor

One of the main appeals of online editors is that you can use them from any device or browser, and that you don't need to install any software -- usually -- to use them.
One of the downsides is that you have to upload the PDF document to the service. If the PDF file is of importance, or even confidential, it is not recommended to use online editors as you leave a copy of the document on the service's server.
Online PDF editors offer basic functionality only usually. You can use them to add text or images to a document, remove bits of content from PDF files, fill out forms, use freehand tools, or add symbols such as checkmarks or circles to the document.
Some allow you to add annotations, and to add, delete or rotate pages.

Selection of free online PDF editors



Advanced PDF Editing Tools



edit pdf text

Sometimes, you may want to edit text of a PDF file, remove elements without changing the layout, replace images, or do other operations that online editors cannot be used for.
One option that you have is to load the PDF document into Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer, or any other program that supports the loading of text documents.
Many of these programs support the exporting of the edited document to PDF as well, so that you retain the original format.
The second type of programs that you may use for advanced editing jobs are free PDF editors. This includes PDF XChange Editor which you may use to edit text or inserting images among other things.
The free PDF editor Ableword falls into that category as well. The developers state that editing PDF files is as simple as editing Word documents, and there is certainly some truth to that.
Foxit Reader is a free PDF viewer that supports basic edit operations as well. You may use it to fill out forms, sign documents, and to add annotations.
Inkspace is another program that you may want to consider. You can import PDF documents into the application, and use the program to move objects -- text, images, tables, animations -- around, or remove them.



Specialized PDF tools



specialized pdf editor

The following editors are used for special purposes such as editing metadata or bookmarks. Some of these programs allow you to convert PDF files to Word documents.
Doing so may make it easier to edit the document. Since most Word processing applications support the exporting of documents as PDF files, it is easy enough to turn them back into a PDF document after editing.
  • BeCyPDFMetaEdit for Windows -- Edit PDF metadata, bookmarks, viewer preferences and more.
  • Nitro PDF to Word -- An online converter that converts any PDF file to a Word file for easier editing.
  • PDF Online -- A PDF to Word converter.

February 10, 2017

5 Free Ways to Send or Receive Faxes Online - Lifewire

Even though many offices still use fax machines, you don't have to invest in one just to send a fax or even receive faxes. Instead, use one of these free services to send faxes from your computer to a fax machine over the Internet or receive faxes to your email.
For fax sending, the services below allow you to enter in text to be faxed or upload a document (e.g., Word doc or PDF file) that's already stored on your PC; you could also use a portable or desktop scanner to convert your paper files to digital documents for faxing.
The free fax receiving services give you a fax number to hand out to others and will convert faxes sent to that number to a digital document delivered to your email address. ~ June 19, 2011


Send a fax for free anywhere in the US and Canada (or many international destinations). You can upload a Word document or PDF file or enter text to fax. The free service places an ad on the cover page and is limited to a maximum of 3 pages per fax, up to 5 free faxes per day. If you need to send more than 3 pages, you can send a fax of up to 25 pages with priority delivery and no ad on the cover page for $1.99. The service is accredited with the Better Business Bureau and has been reliable for me.

MyFax Free

MyFax Free supports free fax sending to over 40 countries and supports many more types of files than other fax services: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and image files. You can send up to 10 pages at once, with a maximum of 10MB for the file size.




If you'd rather not have an ad on the cover page, consider GotFreeFax, which uses no-ad free fax cover pages and also doesn't add any GotFreeFax branding to your fax. You can send up to 3 pages per fax and 2 free faxes per day. If you need to send more than 3 pages, GotFreeFax allows you to fax up to 10 pages for $0.98, 20 pages for $1.98, and 30 pages for $2.98; the premium pay-per-fax service also uses an encrypted connection and provides priority delivery.




FaxBetter offers you a dedicated toll free fax number for receiving up to 50 pages per month. The catch is that you'll need to receive at least one fax every 7 days to keep the free fax number, and the fax-to-email service as well as the OCR/searchable fax feature is only a 30 day trial; FaxBetter stores up to 1,000 pages on their site for you to access your faxes online. If you don't expect to receive faxes as regularly and/or would like the fax-to-email, searchable faxes, and up to 500 pages per month, the FaxBetter account is $5.95 per month.

eFax Free



eFax's free plan gives you a free fax number for incoming faxes which are delivered to you by email. You'll need the eFax document viewing software and will be limited to 20 incoming faxes a month, but if you have light fax receiving needs, eFax Free is a helpful service. To change the area code for your fax number, receive more than 20 incoming faxes, or send as well as receive faxes, you'll need to upgrade to the eFax Plus plan, which is a bit more costly than average, at $16.95 per month.


The 6 Best PDF Readers For Windows

Most people don’t stop to think about the PDF reader they install – they just install Adobe Reader. Adobe’s PDF Reader isn’t the only option, though – there are quite a few high-quality, free PDF viewers available for Windows.
The alternative PDF readers run the gamut from minimal, lightweight applications built for nothing more than viewing PDFs to more full-featured applications that include annotations and highlighting. Some applications even include features you won’t find in Adobe Reader, such as easy creation of PDF documents and basic PDF-editing tools.

Built-In PDF Readers

If you’re using Google Chrome, you already have a PDF reader. It’s not feature-packed, but it’s a quick, minimal way to read PDF documents in your browser without installing and launching a separate application. It makes PDFs look like any other web page, aside from a toolbar that appears when you hover your cursor over the document.
Mozilla is working on integrating a built-in PDF reader, known as PDF.js, into Firefox 14, the next version of Firefox that will be released. Firefox should have a built-in PDF reader by Firefox 14 – or, hopefully, Firefox 15 at the latest. Windows 8 also comes with its own PDF reader – PDF readers are becoming more integrated into the browsers and operating systems we use every day, gradually eliminating the need for dedicated PDF readers.

pdf readers

Foxit Reader

Foxit may be one of the first names that comes to mind when people think about alternative PDF readers, as it was one of the first alternative PDF readers to gain steam – and it’s still a great option today. Unfortunately, it does try to install a toolbar and change your web browser’s home page during installation. Unlike some of the more lightweight option, Foxit has built-in support for annotations, highlights and other PDF-editing features – it’s a more full-featured alternative to Adobe Reader.

free pdf readers

Sumatra PDF

Sumatra PDF stands out as the most lightweight PDF reader available. It’s very lightweight, has a simple interface, and is also available as a portable app that you can take with you anywhere. It doesn’t have any editing options or other advanced features – it’s just a window that loads extremely quickly and displays PDFs. It’s also packed with keyboard shortcuts, making it even more ideal for quickly reading PDFs. Sumatra also supports other types of files, including eBooks in ePub and Mobi format and comic books in CBZ and CBR formats.

free pdf readers

Nitro PDF Reader

Nitro stands out among free PDF readers with some unique features, as well as a slick interface – although people that dislike Microsoft’s ribbon interface may prefer another application’s interface. It’s got some features you won’t find elsewhere – for example, its QuickSign feature allows you to capture a digital image of your signature and apply it to PDF documents. Nitro PDF can also convert files from Microsoft Word and other formats to PDF, convert PDF files to text, and extract images from PDF files. For a more in-depth look at Nitro PDF Reader, check out our full review.

free pdf readers

PDF-XChange Viewer

PDF-XChange Viewer is a fast application, although it isn’t as lightweight as some of the other available PDF readers. It’s got good support for editing and annotations, although more complex edits will require a more full-featured, paid application like Adobe Acrobat. For more information about PDF-XChange Viewer, check out our full review.

best pdf readers

Adobe Reader

Adobe Reader is still the standard PDF reader, although it’s definitely not the fastest. While most PDF documents work perfectly fine in other PDF readers, every now and then a document will only work in Adobe Reader. If you prefer another PDF reader, don’t be surprised if you have to occasionally fire up Adobe Reader to view a more complex PDF that just isn’t working properly in other PDF readers. There’s a reason Chrome’s in-browser PDF reader prompts users to open (or download) Adobe Reader in some cases.

pdf readers

For more great Windows software, check out our list of the 168 best free Windows applications.
How do you read PDFs on Windows? Leave a comment and tell us which PDF reader you prefer.


February 9, 2017

Blocking Telemetry in Windows 7 and 8.1

Microsoft pushed patches to devices running Windows 7 and 8.1 in recent time that collect information and transfer data to Microsoft regularly.
One of the main issues that Windows users may have with telemetry is that Microsoft does not reveal what it is collecting, and what is included when telemetry data is transferred to the company.
The following tutorial provides suggestions on limiting Windows data collecting and transferring. There is no guarantee that nothing is collected and/or submitted after making privacy related changes to the operating system, but a guarantee that data collecting is severely limited at the very least.
Information taken from various places around the Internet including this Ask Woody comment, this German forum post, and G√ľnter Born's post.

Blocking Telemetry in Windows 7 and 8.1

The following Windows updates are related to telemetry and diagnostic data.
  • KB971033-- Description of the update for Windows Activation Technologies
  • KB2952664 -- Compatibility update for keeping Windows up-to-date in Windows 7
  • KB2976978 -- Compatibility update for keeping Windows up-to-date in Windows 8.1 and Windows 8
  • KB2990214 -- Update that enables you to upgrade from Windows 7 to a later version of Windows
  • KB3021917 -- Update to Windows 7 SP1 for performance improvements
  • KB3022345 -- Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry
  • KB3035583 -- Update installs Get Windows 10 app in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 SP1
  • KB3044374 -- Update that enables you to upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10
  • KB3068708 --  Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry
  • KB3075249 -- Update that adds telemetry points to consent.exe in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7
  • KB3080149 -- Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry
  • KB3123862 -- Updated capabilities to upgrade Windows 8.1 and Windows 7
You can remove any of the patches using two methods:
  1. Tap on the Windows-key, type Windows Update, and hit the Enter-key.
  2. Select Installed Updates on the window that opens.
  3. Right-click on updates and select uninstall to remove them from the system.
Second method uses the command line instead:
  1. Tap on the Windows-key, type cmd.exe, hold down Shift and Ctrl, and hit the Enter-key. This opens an elevated command prompt.
  2. Use the command wusa /uninstall /kb:3080149 /quiet /norestart to remove updates.
  3. Replace the number after kb: with the update that you want to remove.
Make sure you hide any update that you have removed, as it will be picked up by Windows again the next time Windows Update checks for update.

Turn off the Customer Experience Improvement Program

We have posted a tutorial already that explains how to turn off the Customer Experience Improvement Program.
Basically, what you do is click on Start, type customer experience, and select the "change customer experience improvement program settings" result. Select "No, I don't want to participate in the program" when the new settings window opens.

Remove the Telemetry service

Next thing on the list is to remove the Diagnostic Tracking service. Open an elevated command prompt -- if it is not still open -- and run the following commands:
  1. sc stop Diagtrack
  2. sc delete Diagtrack
The first command stops the Diagtrack service, the second deletes it.

Blocking Microsoft Servers

Note: the following servers cannot be blocked using the hosts file. You need to block them using another means, e.g. router firewall or installed firewall.
Other servers you may want to block:

Deleting Scheduled Tasks

Windows 7 and 8.1 run a lot of tasks that send data to Microsoft.
  1. Tap on the Windows-key, type Task Scheduler, and hit the Enter-key.
  2. Navigate to Microsoft > Windows in the task hierarchy, and delete (or disable) the following tasks:
  3. All tasks with Application Experience.
  4. All tasks with Autochk.
  5. All tasks with Customer Experience Improvement Program.
  6. DiskDiagnosticDataCollector under DiskDiagnostic.
  7. WinSAT under Maintenance.
  8. Deactivate all Media Center tasks.

Closing Words

There is always the chance that new updates will add new services or tasks. This is why it is recommended to set Windows Update to inform but not download and install automatically.

February 2, 2017

LibreOffice 5.3 ships with experimental Office-like Ribbon UI

LibreOffice 5.3 is the newest version of the popular open source Office suite, and one of the "most feature-rich releases in the history of the application".
The Office suite, available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, is now also available as a private cloud version, called LibreOffice Online.
LibreOffice, at is core, is an open source alternative to Microsoft Office. It features Writer, a text editing program similar to Word, Calc, the Excel equivalent, Impress which is similar to PowerPoint, and Draw, which enables you to create graphic documents.
LibreOffice 5.3 ships with a truckload of new features. One of the new features is a new experimental user interface called Notebookbar. This new interface resembles Office's ribbon UI, but is completely optional right now.

libreoffice 5.3

In fact, the new user interface is not enabled by default, and if you don't look for it or know where to look, you will probably notice no difference at all to previous versions.
First, you need to enable experimental features by checking "Enable experimental features" under Tools > Options > LibreOffice > Advanced > Experimental features.
To enable the new Ribbon UI, select View > Toolbar Layout > Notebookbar.  The UI you see on the screenshot above is enabled by default, but you may switch it using View > Notebookbar to either Contextual Groups or Contextual Single.
The former displays grouped items in the UI, the latter icons in a compact horizontal row. Excellent for small resolution devices.


As far as other features are concerned, there are quite a few that deserve mentioning. One interesting option that the developers built-in to LibreOffice 5.3 is the ability to sign PDF documents, and to verify PDF document signatures.
You find both options under File > Digital Signatures in the interface.
PDF documents can be embedded into documents now as well. They are added to documents as images, with the first page being shown by default.
If you like to use the keyboard shortcut, you may like that the Windows and Linux versions of LibreOffice 5.3 highlight shortcuts now in context menus. So, whenever you use the mouse, you see the corresponding keyboard shortcut as well.

libreoffice 5.3 keyboard shortcuts

The Writer application got some exciting new features. It supports Table styles now for instance, and there is a new Page deck in the sidebar to customize the page settings quickly and directly.
There is also an option to use the new "go to page" box, and arrows in the drawing tools which were not available previously in Writer.
Calc got a new set of default cell styles offering "greater variety and better names", a new median function for pivot tables, and a new filter option when you are inserting functions to narrow down the selection.
Impress & Draw start with a template selector when you start  them, and two new templates have been included for use.
Another interesting option is the ability to link to images or photos of photo albums, so that they are not saved in the document directly.

LibreOffice 5.3 supports better import and export filters to new and legacy Microsoft Office Documents.
Check out the following videos that highlight the new features of LibreOffice 5.3:
LibreOffice 5.3 Writer
LibreOffice 5.3 Calc
LibreOffice 5.3 Impress

Check out the official blog post on the Document Foundation website. There you find links to download pages, and information about LibreOffice Online.


January 17, 2017

Windows 10 vs Windows 8.1 vs Windows 7 - Microsoft OS head-to-head

Vs,17 Aug, 2016

Redmond operating system smack-down

Windows 10 has been out for over a year and has just recently seen the Anniversary Update land on users' desktops. The free upgrade offer has all but finished (there are still some ways to get it free if you have accessibility issues). Windows 10 is great, especially when compared to its two immediate predecessors, Windows 8.1 and 7, as our blow-by-blow head-to-head comparison shows.

Support cut-off date

Every operating system has its life cycle and will one day be cut off from updates entirely, left abandoned and open to security vulnerabilities that won't be fixed unless you're on a bespoke support contract. As we saw with Windows XP last year, the support deadline comes up quickly and it's important to have your affairs in order and a plan to switch ready to go. Luckily for all three of our operating systems here, you have several years before you'll even need to think about switching away from them. The extended support cut-off dates for Windows are as follows:
Windows 7 Service Pack 1: January 14th, 2020
Windows 8.1: January 10th, 2023
Windows 10: October 14th, 2025

Winner: Windows 10

This comes as no surprise - Windows 10 makes the most sense if you want the most cost-effective way of receiving free updates for the next decade.

User interface for desktops and laptops

Windows 7 certainly set the benchmark for a relatively consistent and understandable user interface, although its key strength now is its familiarity. You know where to find things, you know what sort of results you're going to get from the Start Menu search bar and you understand the oddities of Windows Explorer, Task Manager and Control Panel.

This familiarity is an asset compared to Windows 8.1. Microsoft's huge push for touchscreen devices and tablets left desktop users feeling not only abandoned, but hugely confused. Hitting the Start button to search for an app or file left you with a massive full-screen Start screen that made little sense when it was first introduced in Windows 8 in 2012 and it still feels jarring today.

Windows 10 strikes a better balance here, with its Continuum mode neatly morphing the compact Start menu into a bigger, touch-friendly Start screen as needed. The Start menu’s links to the newly tweaked File Explorer as well as lists of recently used apps and your pinned folders are all huge plus points.
The Start menu in Windows 10 has undergone a few changes since its own release. With the advent of the Anniversary update, it has three columns in the Start Menu with All Apps always visible.

Windows 10 holds a small advantage up to this point, then, and that's before you even consider the hugely improved window management system. If you're someone who likes to multitask, Windows 10 has you covered.
Windows 8.1 has better multi-monitor support than Windows 7. Unlike 7, 8.1 has a taskbar on each screen showing only those  apps  running on that screen. Plus each monitor can have its own distinct wallpaper. and each screen given its own customisable wallpaper.
Windows 10 builds on this foundation, adding an improved version of Windows Snap so you can easily organise your windows in just a couple of clicks. Answering the prayers of those of us with multiple monitors running at different resolutions, there are now settings for scaling text and the UI on a per-monitor basis.

Even if you only have one display, such as when you're using a laptop on the move, Windows 10 now has built-in multiple desktops (like Ubuntu and Mac OS X), so juggling lots of windows and tasks is still easier than ever.

Winner: Windows 10

There's no question Windows 10 needed to make some serious improvements for desktop and laptop users, and Microsoft has delivered. Multitasking has never been easier, meaning it's by far the best choice.

User interface for tablets

Windows 7 only has the most basic interface elements and optimisations for touchscreens, which allowed the iPad and iOS to dominate the market for tablets. This led to the radically improved touchscreen interface in Windows 8, but it alienated a lot of people as it had so few accommodations for keyboard and mouse users.
Windows 8.1 added a few tweaks, nips and tucks, such as the ability to run Modern UI apps in a resizable window, but its display scaling problems made usable high-resolution Windows 8.1 tablets a near impossibility.

Windows 10, while not perfect, is a big improvement. An improved touchscreen gesture allows you to flick between applications quickly and easily than before. If you have a hybrid device and dock it to a keyboard, Windows 10 should recognise this change of state and switch back to its touchpad-friendly desktop mode thanks to Continuum mode, although whether this will work on your device will depend on whether its manufacturers has released drivers that support this.
Windows 10 Anniversary Update features a new Ink Workspace that puts pen-based apps in their own panel at the bottom-right corner. The new apps boast Screen Sketch, Sketchpad and Sticky Notes. The latter integrating with its cloud services. Pen devices should work well with Windows 10 with great Ink support.

Winner: Windows 10

If you have a tablet or a tablet/laptop hybrid, Windows 10 is your best bet. With features catering well for both, you'll work more efficiently that you could on Windows 8.1 or Windows 7.


Windows 7 and 8.1 are by no means insecure operating systems; but Windows 10 has moved both home and enterprise security along significantly, both in terms of local device security and the security of your online services, too.
First of all, there's Windows Hello, which lets you log-in using a fingerprint, face or iris scan instead of a password. While computers with the necessary biometric scanning hardware built-in are currently uncommon, we’re helpful that more will become available quickly given that Hello is built into Windows 10 from the very start.
There's also Passport, a single sign-in service for consumers that allows Windows to authenticate with websites on your behalf without you having to type in a password. This service hooks into Windows Hello, using your biometric scan or a PIN code to verify that you are the person you claim to be. This means you'll use your password less, meaning it'll become much more difficult for hackers to compromise online accounts with stolen passwords. It's not currently supported that widely, but if it takes off, Passport could massively boost security on your online services. As yet, though, Passport and Hello are unproven and very much fledgling technologies.
IT managers will appreciate the ability to organise Enterprise-licenced PCs into circles and choose when updates are applied - great for making sure you don't disrupt your users' work. This also means that Microsoft's new strategy of releasing frequent, individual updates instead of bundling them into Patch Tuesdays or Service Packs won't have a big impact on your office's productivity, as you can delay non-critical updates for up to 90 days if you're on Microsoft's Current Business Branch of support.
You also get Enterprise Data Protection, the ability to sign in with an Azure ID and the ability to set up a company-wide app store.

Winner: Windows 10

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft's latest operating system has the most advanced security features of the operating systems here. It’s good for both consumers and IT managers.


While anecdotally we have heard of PCs running a lot quicker having been upgraded from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, actual performance benchmarks on our test PC with 8GB of memory and an Intel Core i5 4690K processor show no difference.
More important is the addition of DirectX 12 support, a low-level graphics API designed to increase 3D graphics performance with lower overheads while giving developers more control over how hardware is used. This is most important for gamers though as most professional 3D graphics software relies on the competing OpenGL API instead. Although it’s still very early days for DirectX 12 with few titles currently taking advantage of it, if you're looking for the best 3D gaming performance available the Windows 10 is likely your best bet as DirectX 12 won’t be available for Windows 8.1 or 7.

Winner: Windows 10

Again, no surprises here; with no penalty in performance and DirectX 12, Windows 10 is an easy choice


Search has become ever more important in operating systems, as file and folder hierarchies have become less important and searching for a specific filename has become a popular way of finding important files – especially amidst messy desktops and haphazardly organised Documents folders.
Windows 7 had a terrific search function built in the Start Menu, finding files and folders on network shares as well as those stored locally. It wasn’t perfect, especially if you needed to refine your search results, but it was useful enough that we were surprised that Windows 8 abandoned this simultaneous search ability. It also adopted a more fiddly Start screen-based search interface and integrated web search results from Bing and app store suggestions. These superfluous additions were far of an annoyance than a convenience.

Windows 10 searches still hook into the Bing search engine and also look for apps in the Windows Store. Even more annoyingly these results are placed ahead of search results for installed apps, files and folders with no option to change this order. Amazingly, the ability to search your computer and network shares simultaneously is still missing.
However, you can at least easily perform more advanced searches from the Start Menu by clicking on the My Stuff button. This lets you filter by relevance or date, and can also narrow down your search to specific file types including documents, photos, music and settings.
Windows 10 also includes Cortana, the personal assistant feature from Windows Phone. This has become a major part of Windows 10 doing double duty as a web search and a Start Menu/Windows search. Plus the ability to search by voice is both impressive in its accurate transcription and in its usefulness for the differently abled.

Winner: Tie

The improved advanced search features in Windows 10 are very welcome, but its insistence on prioritising web search and app store results isn’t. Windows 7 still holds a place in our hearts for its quick, simple search results and network integration.

Verdict - which version of Windows is right for you?

Windows 8 had the unintended side effect of making people significantly more attached to Windows 7 than ever before. It was a happy medium sitting between the Vista mess and the Windows 8 Start screen nightmare.
However, the time is right to move on. If you're still on Windows 7, you can safely upgrade without fear of losing the things you loved most about that OS and Windows 10 is certainly an improvement over Windows 8.1.


Footnote: Drivers
One area not mentioned is the number of drivers Windows 10 offers. From my experience, Windows 10 has better and a more comprehensive library of drivers than either Win7 or Win8.1. In prior windows versions I had to search for motherboard discs to find the correct video, sound, and networking drivers. Installing Windows 10, I did not have these issues.