FANTASTIC FREE TOOLS TO AUTOMATICALLY…
Desktops and laptops have changed the way we work and play, but there are some lesser-known software and tools that work autonomously to help increase your productivity and even maintain the health of your PC.
…DO PRACTICALLY ANYTHING
Conditional statements are the cornerstone of computer programming: “If condition ‘X’ is met, then the stipulated task ‘Y’ should be carried out.” And this is the very basis of the IFTTT (IF This Then That) service.
After creating a free account, you can choose from hundreds of ‘recipes’ to automate almost any job pertaining to your social networks, email communication and smartphone use.
But first, you will need to install the IFTTT app on your phone, and link all your online accounts—Pocket, Skype, Instagram, Gmail, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, etc and even devices such as Amazon Alexa, Philips Hue Smart Lighting—to the service. Whenever you choose to activate a task or “applet”, IFTTT requests permission to access the accounts you want to connect.
You can then configure IFTTT to save the Facebookphotographs you’re tagged in to Dropbox. Or, force your smartphone to switch to Wi-Fi when you enter your home; get hourly notifications to drink water, switch on your smart lights at sunset, and hundreds of other preprogrammed applets that are designed to make your life easier. And if you don’t find any applet for the task you want, you can create your own and share it with other IFTTT users.
A driver is a software program that allows a component—display, sound card, network adapter, web camera, printer, etc—to communicate with the operating system. Now to install driver updates, you would need to know the exact model of the hardware inside your laptop or desktop. Thankfully, you can use Driver Booster (v5.5) that automatically detects your PC’s components; it identifies when new drivers are available and even downloads them for installation.
The process is safe because Driver Booster only uses updates that are tested at the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL).
Opt for a Pro account, and you get access to a larger driver database, backup of your system before updation to create a restore point, auto download, and scheduled installation of updates during system idle time.
…BACKUP YOUR DATA
If you run Windows 10, to back up your data—settings, apps and I files—first connect a high-capacity external hard drive to your system, then head to the Control Panel, click on System and Security and then on Backup and Restore (Windows 7). From here, you will be guided, step-by-step, on how to back-up your computer. In case of a system crash, you can recover all your data by booting directly from this backed-up hard drive.
Alternatively, you might want to look at Paragon Backup & Recovery that’s free-to-use for one PC per user account.
You will need to create an account after installing the software on your PC. You also get a free downloadable manual that informs you of all the features of this tool. It is recommended that you read this document before you use this software to back up your PC. Paragon creates an automatic backup image of an entire hard disk or system partition onto another external hard drive or large capacity pen drive.
You can set it to create archives of only the changes made since the last full backup. It even allows you to create a full-fledged Windows-based recovery environment and store it on a bootable CD or USB pen drive. This can then be used as a recovery medium, allowing you to start your computer and see your backed-up data, even when your installed OS is corrupted or cannot be used.
…CONVERT FILE FORMATS
Format Factory is a one-stop tool to convert between different formats of photos, audio and video files. It supports popular ones like MP3, 3GP, OGG, WMA, MP4, AVI, WMV, JPG, BMP and TIF, among many others. You get an intuitive user interface, with the flexibility to add multiple files for quick batch conversion. You can preconfigure the output quality (high, medium, low), file name structure, and where you want the converted files to be saved. The best part is that you don’t need to wait till a batch conversion is done before starting with the next job. You can queue them all up, click the Start button and relax with some coffee.
You can even use Format Factory to stitch multiple audio recordings, join video clips, save a video in a mobile-friendly format, as well as rip CDs and DVDs to the format of your choice.
…SORT YOUR FILES
Maintaining your PC involves organising all your files and folders. But many of us tend to save files on the Desktop—or sometime even in ‘New Folder’ directories—in a hurry, and before we know it, our computers are a complete mess.
Here, turn to File Juggler. This tool monitors your PC for new files you have created or downloaded, and automatically organises them when they appear.
After you install the software, you will need to create rules that specify what files it should take action on, and what it should do. File Juggler can move, rename, copy and even send files to the Recycle Bin. Using its rules-based interface, you can extract content snippets and dates from documents and use them to organise those files; use artist, album, title and more to sort your MP3s; use image properties in your rules; automatically extract files when they appear in zip files, and much more.
Depending on the rules you set, File Juggler “reacts instantly” when a file matches your conditions and carries out the instructions you have set up.
To monitor all its automatic actions, this software comes with a searchable log that helps you keep track of your files. A free version of the software comes with all the features of the paid options but is limited to a 30-day trial period, and if you like how the software works for you, you can buy it for $40.
… UNINSTALL MULTIPLE SOFTWARE
Removing software is a tedious process because you have to uninstall them one at a time. But Bulk Crap Uninstaller lets you select multiple applications and initiate the process without launching Microsoft’s Add or Remove Programs.
The app also searches for residue like temporary internet files, settings, add-on components, shortcuts, etc – and gets rid of them for you. This utility can be configured to group programmes by publisher, system related, Windows Store apps, and unsigned software. You also get a “silent” mode where Bulk Crap Uninstaller will try to uninstall the programs without any user input.
Speechnotes is an online speech recognition service that lets you jot down notes without using the keyboard. All you need is an internet connection, the Chrome browser and a microphone. Simply click the mic icon to start a session and speak out loud and clearly. The service converts what it hears into words on the screen. A side panel adjacent to the notepad lists the key words you can use to include punctuation – comma, semi colon, new paragraph, etc – as you dictate your notes. Speechnotes lets you edit the text along the way and also reads it aloud to you. You can save the notes to the clipboard, download as a .TXT or .DOC file, or save it to your Google Driveaccount.
Speechnotes supports regional languages like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil and Telugu. However, you don’t get an on-screen keyboard to edit the scripts. That said, the service is fast and accurate enough to improve your productivity. You can also use its Android app to jot down notes via a Bluetooth headset. Now, Speechnotes works in real-time but does not include a recording feature. If you want to record an interview, then try Voicera (formerly Wrapupp) for Android and iOS devices. This app does not convert speech to text in real time. Instead, it saves the recording to its servers, transcribes it and notifies you when the text is ready. It also lets you mark “highlights” or bookmarks during the recording for quick reference. You can then share a summary of this transcript to colleagues via an email.
speechnotes.co | www.voicera.com
…POST TO SOCIAL NETWORKS
Did you know you can continue posting updates to your social media even while you are away? TweetDeck, for instance, lets you schedule tweets to be published at a later date and time. You can sign in with your Twitteraccount, type your message, click the Schedule Tweet button, choose when you want the post to appear on your timeline and click the Tweet the… button. You can queue multiple messages in the same way and they will appear in a Scheduled column in the web page.
This web service lets you link multiple Twitter accounts to line up tweets for each ID. At any point of time, you can delete these posts from the Scheduled column or edit the date and time.
If you want to post updates to your Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts, then try Hootsuite. Each account appears as a tab, which can be configured to display various live streams of your posts, messages, mentions and more. Its free plan lets you add up to three social networks and schedule up to 30 posts at a time. You can either click the calendar icon to schedule posts manually or select AutoSchedule to let Hootsuite decide the best time to publish for “optimal impact”.
tweetdeck.twitter.com | hootsuite.com
Savio D’Souza & Ashutosh Desai