I need to start with an update on my last article. Just hours after the newsletter it's published in went to print, LastPass sent me an email telling me that the free version of their password manager would no longer work across multiple platforms. That left me having to decide whether to pay for the premium version or to find a new password manager.
This brings me to a topic I've been planning to write about for a while …
One of the things I usually love about technology is that it's constantly innovating, looking for new or better ways of doing things. This video is an eye-opening reminder of just how far Windows has come since 1985.
But not all the changes are for the better – and even the good ones can take some adjusting to. A client recently asked me ‘How do you find out about these things?’ Another told me that even when she Googles for solutions, she doesn't know which information to trust. So let me share with you some of the websites that may help.
You can also use these sites, and others such as The Verge, Digital Trends, Windows Latest and even Twitter, to get ahead of changes by following their tech news. 70 Tech Websites to Follow in 2021 is a great list of sites that you can read to keep yourself updated on the tech industry.
For the record, having done my research on a replacement for LastPass, I've switched to Bitwarden. While its ‘Free forever’ personal plan lacks style, it has all the functionality I need. I even find its mobile app easier to use than LastPass's.
Keep on learning!!!
I get my love of technology from my Dad, a real technophile who, until Alzheimer’s made it difficult, was never happier than when trying out a new gadget or experimenting with a new app. My Mum, on the other hand, is discombobulated by it all. She's fine doing familiar tasks on her laptop but gets thrown when something different happens. She's the first to admit she needs a lot of handholding – and she isn't alone in that.
When the Covid-19 lockdown happened and she knew I wouldn't be able to pop over and help with her list of problems, she panicked! Fortunately, the technology that scares her also came to her rescue, in the form of Quick Assist.
Quick Assist allows you to help someone less confident by giving you remote access to their computer. Its big advantage over better known alternatives such as TeamViewer is that it's built into Windows so there's nothing to install - although we still struggled a bit getting Mum to find the app on her computer. There are three ways to bring it up, and I think we tried all of them before we got it going:
For a comprehensive guide on using Quick Assist, take a look at this Computer World article.
As well as being Winchester Computer Tutor, since the spring I've been the editor of a local newsletter, the Badger Farm and Oliver's Battery Community News. I've enjoyed redesigning the newsletter and when setting up my first edition I took a long time choosing the fonts. Font choice is like housework – no-one notices when you do a good job, but everyone notices when you don't!
The right font can make a difference in the way you get your message across, not just in publications like Community News, but in work and personal documents and even in emails. If you're designing a website, font choice becomes even more critical:
‘it can have a real effect on your site's bounce rates and conversion rates, especially if you choose a font that's hard for your visitors to read.’ kinsta.com/blog/best-google-fonts.
Windows 10 comes with around 100 fonts already installed, with a few more available from the Microsoft store. While that sounds like a lot, you may still feel that you can't find the perfect font for your project. So where can you get new ones?
It takes time and effort to design a great font, so many cost a lot of money and have restrictions on, for example, commercial use. There are sites that offer free fonts, but some are notorious for pirating copyrighted fonts or including malware, so you must choose carefully.
If in doubt, go with the big boys. And they don't get bigger than Google. With over 900 free fonts at fonts.google.com, your problem may be that there's too much choice. You can use the search tools to find fonts based on their type (serif or handwriting, for example), language or other characteristics. You can also use the font pairings recommendations to find fonts that work well together. When you've found your ideal font, select, download and install it: HowToGeek will guide you through this process.
If the Google fonts don’t meet your needs, other reputable font sites are dafont.com, fontspace.com and fontsquirrel.com.
Some of my favourites for fun projects are Ink Draft from the Microsoft store; Courgette, Parisienne, Poiret One from Google; Kingthings Wrote, Montez and 1942 report from Font Squirrel. The medieval section of FontSpace has a great collection of illustrated letters and there's a party atmosphere in the Mexican section of daFont!
One word of warning – too many fonts can slow down your computer, so don't get too carried away.
A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined giving up on Windows Live Mail. But in January 2017 Microsoft ended support for this much-loved program, leaving it susceptible to security vulnerabilities, so I decided to hunt for a replacement. If you make the same choice, this may help.
If Windows 10 Mail is too simple, Outlook too expensive and Thunderbird too different you may find that eM Client becomes your new favourite.
A picture can inspire, can calm or can amuse. And if you spend many hours in front of your computer, what better showcase for the pictures you love than your desktop? Fortunately, Windows makes it really easy to create your own exhibition. Here’s how!
The first thing to do is create a folder for your chosen pictures. Open File Explorer and navigate to an appropriate place—probably the Pictures folder. Right-click and select New > Folder. Give this folder an appropriate name, eg Desktop pictures, then close File Explorer. Now right-click anywhere on the Desktop and select Personalise. In the dropdown menu underneath Background, select Slideshow. Click Browse under Choose albums for your slideshow, navigate to the folder you’ve just created and then click Choose this folder. Choose how often you want to change the picture and then Choose a fit—I find Fill usually works best. The final tweak I like to make is to click Colours on the right-hand side and then tick the box next to Automatically pick an accent colour from my background.
Now the folder’s ready, it’s time to get some photos in there. The obvious thing to do is to use your own photos so you’re constantly reminded of that wonderful holiday, that amazing sporting achievement or the cute antics of your cat. Just copy those pictures into the Desktop pictures folder you created earlier and sit back and enjoy.
But what if you just want something different, perhaps views of places you’ve never been? Sites like Pixabay and unsplash.com have an amazing variety of quality-controlled, copyright-free photos submitted by the community that you can download for free and use for whatever you wish. Just be aware that some of these sites include a few sponsored non-free pictures in their search results to help finance themselves.
Personally, I’m currently inspired by the stunning high-resolution images, like the one above, from the Windows 10 lock screen. These are so easy to download using the SpotBright app from the App Store. Read more about this on Windows Central.
Don’t forget that you can ring the changes just by swapping the photos you have in your folder, or by choosing a new folder. Feeling stressed? Immerse yourself in some calming beach scenes. Feeling artistic? Show off your Prisma creations. Feeling festive? Get your desktop “beginning to look a lot like Christmas”.
And on that note, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas. If you didn’t get a chance last year, enjoy my advent calendar with a different festive video every day.