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Posts Tagged ‘desktop’

Remote connections with TeamViewer

August 20, 2009 4 comments

Being able to connect to, view, and use, other computers can often prove useful or necessary. You may have encountered a plea for help from a friend whose computer has imploded, or you simply might want to browse documents or files on another PC in your home, but are too lazy to make the arduous journey to the other room. Both of these situations and more can be solved by TeamViewer.

Connecting to another PC is a relatively simple process, unlike Windows' built-in remote assistance tool

Connecting to another PC is a relatively simple process, unlike Windows' built-in remote assistance tool

After downloading and installing, you’ll be able to sign up for an account. Whilst this can make it faster for you in the future by allowing you to create a list of contacts, it’s not a compulsory step. Loading the TeamViewer software will generate a unique user ID and password, the latter of  which can be changed if you wish. The user-ID and password can then be given to another user to allow them to connect to your PC. When you want to connect to another PC, you’ll need its user-ID and password. The connection won’t need to be confirmed on the PC you’re trying to connect to if you input the password details correctly. If you sign up for an account, you can also set up a computer with TeamViewer installed to be available for connection without having to faff about with auto-generated passwords each time. Therefore, Team Viewer can act as not only a remote assistance tool, but as a remote desktop connection tool.

TeamViewer offers a number of simple but useful features that improve the software

TeamViewer offers a number of simple but useful features that improve the software

Once you’ve entered a connection, the remote desktop will appear in a window. The size that you view it in can be adjusted by resizing the window, and can also be run in full-screen. However, if the screen resolution on the remote PC is larger than your own, you’ll probably notice some loss of quality since it’s being scaled down to fit your screen. The window can run in full-screen, but this is likely to result in you having to scroll around the screen to see it all. Despite these fairly minor grievances, the connection between the two computers was very good – the speed was fast and there wasn’t any judder or jump as I’ve experienced at times when trying Windows’ built-in remote connection software. However, it should be noted that I was connected to a PC on the same network as I am, so the connection may be of lower quality if I were to try to connect to a computer that’s further afield. If you do encounter poor connection between the two PCs, the quality settings can be altered to reduce the amount of data which needs to be sent between the two, hopefully speeding up the process.

In addition to being able to interact with the PC as if it were in front of me, I was also able to send files to the other PC. This feature could be useful if you’re collaborating with a colleague or classmate on a project involving documents. You’d be able to look at the document or presentation together whilst using the built-in chat feature to share feedback and suggestions. There doesn’t seem to be a feature which allows for voice-chat, which may be a useful addition for helping someone fix a problem. Though perhaps this would run the risk of using up too much of your connection, thus reducing the quality and responsiveness of the remote connection to the PC.

Your actions on the PC can also be recorded using the built-in feature. This might come in handy if you want to later watch back the video to see how you solved a problem or what you did wrong. If you were helping someone to solve a problem, you may wish to show them the video so they are able to fix the issue themselves in future if it arises again. That’ll save you some extra work.

Overall, a great bit of software. I am surprised that such a quality bit of kit is offered for free – though there is a paid-for version which adds additional features. Another plus point is that it’s compatible with both Windows and Macs. TeamViewer can be downloaded from www.teamviewer.com.

Add tabs to your desktop with WindowTabs

I have obsessive-complusive organisational needs. If things are related to the same topic, surely they should be together? Window Tabs comes to the rescue by adding a tab to the top of every application. These tabs can then be dragged around to group them with other applications or documents which are of a similar content. This allows you to have a group for each different thing you’re working on or looking at.

Three grouped windows and the WindowTabs option box showing some excluded applications

Three grouped windows and the WindowTabs option box showing some excluded applications

The software is a very quick install, and as soon as it’s finished the tabs pop up on top of your currently running programs and files. They look quite like Chrome tabs, and they work in a similar way too. You can click and drag one to move it about, and let go when it’s sitting next to a similar tab. The provided screenshot provides an example of three grouped items which share the same subject. In addition, I’ve shown the options window.

There are probably some applications which you don’t want to have tabs appearing at the top. Such as your web browser, because it already includes them, or other applications which you’ll probably never want to group with other files or programs. I’ve chosen to exclude Spotify as well, since I don’t see it fitting into a grouped category as its purpose is different.

Three is the magic number. This is the basic, free version, so it doesn’t let you have anything more than three items in each group. That means if you’re working on lots of documents, spreadsheets and other such jazz all related to the same thing, you won’t be able to group them all together. Unfortunate, but at least it’s free.

The application will work under XP and Vista, and it should be okay under the Windows 7 RC, too. Try it out and see what you think. I personally haven’t kept it, since I use multiple desktops for different areas (see the previous article about Virtuawin). In addition, I think the tabs look out-of-place when compared to the way Windows looks. I think they ought to blend in with the Windows’ themes, rather than looking like Google Chrome’s tabs. If you come to the same conclusion as me, it’s a very easy and quick uninstall, so no worries there. Grab it from www.windowtabs.com if you want to give it a go.

Organise your desktop with Stardock Fences

June 29, 2009 2 comments

Whilst I do my utmost to keep the desktop on my laptop in pristine condition, the desktop on my other PC can sometimes get a build-up of shortcuts and quickly saved files. I have found a rather nice solution which can organise desktop icons into translucent mini-windows which can be easily moved, altered, and hidden at will. This solution takes the form of Stardock Fences.

Example fences and creating a new fence. Click to enlarge.

Example fences and creating a new fence. Click to enlarge.

The software serves two functions. The first and foremost of these is the ability to add sections to your desktop where you can group similar shortcuts. For instance, you may have shortcuts to your projects or work folders. You could make a fence for ‘Projects’, and within that you can collect all the shortcuts related to your work. The same can be repeated for all other categories that you wish to create.

The process of creating a ‘fence’ is easy – just hold the right mouse button, and drag a square. A label will then pop up which asks you if you’d like to create a new fence. Clicking it will cause a fence to fill the space you selected. You’ll then be prompted to name the fence. Finally, you can then drag shortcuts from your desktop, Start Menu, or folders into the new fence. You can remove them from the fence just as easily – simply by dragging them elsewhere. Alternatively, if you decide you want them scattered around disparately again, you can drag them back out and then delete the fence.

The other nifty feature of Fences is the ability to hide your desktop icons quickly and easily. Double-clicking on your desktop causes your icons to quickly fade out to nothing. This allows you to keep your desktop clean and simple, which helps you to look professional and avoid getting confuzzled. As soon as the boss is gone, you can double-click once more to have them appear again. You can nab this application from www.stardock.com/products/fences.

Improve your organisation with VirtuaWin

April 11, 2009 1 comment

I like things organised; I’m on the verge of OCD-ish in my quirks and love of things being organised. The current state of my real desk would give a different impression though. Nevertheless, I like at least my computers to be organised. When I have lots of work on the go I end up with a flummoxingly large number of windows open at once: multiple browsing sessions, word documents, spreadsheets, information, research, etc, all build up into a scarily long line of bars on my straining taskbar at the bottom of my sweating screen. Deciding that the best solution to this problem would be the ability to have multiple desktops, I set off on an epic Googling quest which culminated in the finding of an almost perfect solution: VirtuaWin.

These three shown desktops are all running at the same time in one PC.

These three shown desktops are all running at the same time in one PC.

Having tried software with a similar purpose in the past but found it not to my liking due to the fact that it created multiple instances of the process ‘explorer.exe’ – which is a slow and awkward method –  so I didn’t hold out too much hope for VirtuaWin. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. After a quick and easy installation, I was able to customise the program to my liking, setting up anything up to 9 desktops. I usually have one for ‘personal’ – which includes browsing the web for pleasure, emails, etc, and separate desktops for school subjects for which I am currently doing work. This keeps each subject separate and makes the whole process of getting my work done much easier and less confusing.

After installing, a little icon appears in the system tray by the clock, which allows you to swap to different virtual desktops; move windows between the desktops; and change settings. When left-clicking on the icon the pop-up menu looks a little bit daunting, but it’s fine once you grasp that the first column is for swapping to different running windows, the second for moving other applications to your current desktop, and the final for keeping a window on every desktop – for example if you want to keep a ‘to do’ notepad document on each desktop. I think this method pop-out could be simplified and better implemented, but you shouldn’t have to use the cumbersome menu much, if at all, anyway.

You can also customise the various settings within the application by right-clicking on the aforementioned icon, and selecting ‘setup’. From here, you can change various bits and bobs, such as how many virtual desktops you want to use, their names, keyboard shortcuts for swapping to other desktops, and various other settings which enable you to break change the way it functions to best suit your style.

I strongly recommend this application if you often have lots of different things cluttering your PC at any one time, or if you just like organising things. You can download the program from www.virtuawin.sourceforge.net.

Also, if you share my passion for categorising and organising things, you may also like to see my articles about similar OCD-ishly organisational applications: Taskbar Shuffle and QT Tab and Toolbar.