Directory (computing)

How to Install Python on Windows

Python doesn’t come prepackaged with Windows, but that doesn’t mean Windows users won’t find the flexible programming language useful. It’s not quite a simple as installing the newest version however, so let’s make sure you get the right tools for the task at hand.

First released in 1991, Python is a popular high-level programming language used for general purpose programming. Thanks to a design philosophy that emphasizes readability it has long been a favorite of hobby coders and serious programmers alike. Not only is it an easy language (comparatively speaking, that is) to pick up but you’ll find thousands of projects online that require you have Python installed to use the program.

Which Version Do You Need?

Unfortunately, there was a significant update to Python several years ago that created a big split between Python versions. This can make things a bit confusing to newcomers, but don’t worry. We’ll walk you through installing both major versions

When you visit the Python for Windows download page, you’ll immediately see the division. Right at the top, square and center, the repository asks if you want the latest release of Python 2 or Python 3 (2.7.13 and 3.6.1, respectively, as of this tutorial).

Newer is better, right? Maybe so, maybe not. The version you want depends on your end goal. Let’s say, for example, that you read our article about expanding your Minecraft world with MCDungeon and are excited to add cool stuff to your worlds. That project is coded in Python and requires Python 2.7—you can’t run the MCDungeon project with Python 3.6. In fact, if you’re exploring hobby projects like MCDungeon, you’ll find that nearly all of them use 2.7. If your goal is to get some project that ends in a “.py” extension up and running, then there’s a very, very good chance you’ll need 2.7 for it.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to actually learn Python, we recommend installing both versions side by side (which you can do with zero risk and only a tiny bit of setup hassle). This lets you work with the newest version of the language, but also run older Python scripts (and test backwards compatibility for newer projects). Comparing the two versions is an article unto itself, though, so we’ll defer to the Python project wiki where you can read their well written overview of the differences.

You can download just Python 2 or Python 3 if you’re sure you only need a particular version. We’re going the distance today and will be installing both of them, so we recommend you download both versions and do the same. Under the main entry for both versions you’ll see an “x86-64” installer, as seen below.

This installer will install the appropriate 32-bit or 64-bit version on your computer automatically (here’s some further reading if you want to know more about the differences between the two).

How to Install Python 2

Installing Python 2 is a snap, and unlike in years past, the installer will even set the path variable for you (something we’ll be getting into a bit later). Run the installer, select “Install for all users,” and then click “Next.”

On the directory selection screen, leave the directory as “Python27” and click “Next.”

On the customization screen,…

What Does a Windows Folder Icon With Double Blue Arrows Mean?

For the most part, many of us are familiar with the various folder icons included with Windows over the years, but once in a while, a new one shows up. With that in mind, today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a curious reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

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The Question

SuperUser reader K.A. wants to know what a Windows folder icon with double blue arrows means:

While browsing through my Windows directory, I found the Panther subdirectory, which had this folder icon:

Does anyone know what this signifies? I was able to open it normally, and it…

How to Manually Back Up Your Steam Game Files

Steam has a built-in system for making a backup of its game files, so you don’t have to re-download a full game every time you uninstall it and want to play again later. But like a lot of Steam’s features, it hasn’t been updated in quite a while, and frankly it often manages to break the game restoration process anyway. On top of that, it’s slow, it’s clunky, and you can do better on your own.

Manually copying the files out of Steam’s game folder, then copying them back when you’re ready to play again, is much faster and more reliable. Steam’s caching system means that doing it yourself has no disadvantage versus the program’s integrated tool. If you’d like to back up your game files separately, especially to an external drive for archiving a large, 100GB+ collection or saving space on your primary system backup, here’s how to do it the easy way.

Step One: Find the Game Files

Find your standard Steam game installation folder. By default in Windows, this is located in:

C:/Program Files (x86)/Steam/steamapps/common

In macOS, open the Finder and choose Go > Go to Folder from the menu bar, entering this path:

~Library/Application Support/Steam/SteamApps/common

And in Linux-based operating systems, it’s in the following your local user directory:

~/.local/share/Steam/steamapps/common

This folder is divided into sub-folders, one for each game installed under Steam’s master game list. Most of them share the same name as their respective game, but some use alternate titles or abbreviations—for example, Age of Empires II HD Edition is shortened to “Age2HD.”

Remember, if you’ve set a custom game folder in Steam, your games will be installed elsewhere.

Step Two: Back Up the Games

To back up the games in the Steam common folder, just copy and paste them into another folder.

That’s it. Really, it’s that simple. Ideally, you want…

The Best Video Player for iPhone

A long time ago, Apple made it difficult for third-party developers to make a good media player for the iPhone. Thankfully, over the years they’ve loosened their restrictions, and now you can get a really solid video player with PlayerXtreme.

Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: Free ($4.99 for Pro features)
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Features

  • Supports plenty of video and audio formats: 3gp, asf, avi, divx, dv, dat, flv, gxf, m2p, m2ts, m2v, m4v, mkv, moov, mov, mp4, mpeg, mpeg1, mpeg2, mpeg4, mpg, mpv, mt2s, mts, mxf, ogm, ogv, ps, qt, rm, rmvb, ts, vob, webm, wm, wmv
  • Simple, familiar folder-based interface that feels a lot like Finder, which also includes multiple ways to view and sort your library
  • Various ways to search through your files
  • Supports streaming over SMB, UPNP, and Wi-Fi
  • Download files to the app over your local network
  • Open files from directly from email attachments
  • Great control over the look of subtitles
  • Supports HD playback
  • Change playback speed
  • Hide folders that guest users of the app can’t see but you can
  • Support Chromecast and AirPlay (Pro version only)
  • Boost the volume of soft audio (Pro version only)
  • Passcode protection to lock away files (Pro version only)

Where It Excels

PlayerXtreme can handle just about any file format you throw at it, which means that it can easily become your main video player without much effort. It does just about everything you need a video player to do: you can create playlists, add your own subtitle files, play audio in the background, play files from a variety of sources, and customize playback in tons of ways. If you buy the Pro version of the app for $5, you can stream videos to your Apple TV or Chromecast.

Beyond being just a solid media player, PlayerXtreme also makes it easy to transfer files from your computer to your iOS device using a ton of different methods. PlayerXtreme will automatically search your local network for shared folders, where it can then download or stream any video files it finds. You can…

How to Add Trailers to Your Plex Movies for a True Movie Theater Experience

If you’re a fan of movie trailers, pre-rolls, and the build up of anticipation leading up to the cinematic experience, then we’ve got a treat for you: Plex Media Server makes it dead simple to recreate that theater magic right at home with both trailers from your own movie collection as well as those of upcoming releases.

You may already be aware that Plex supports trailers, but not many people know that you can leverage trailers into something much cooler than something you manually load up now and then. Tucked away in the settings of your Plex Media Server is a neat little bonus feature that can add a little cinema magic and authenticity to your movie night experience. With a little bit of prep work and a few small changes, Plex can do the following things:

  • Play trailers for movies from your personal movie collection (including trailers for all movies or just your unwatched films).
  • Play trailers for new and upcoming theater releases (Plex Pass premium users only).
  • Play trailers for new and upcoming Blu-ray releases (Plex Pass premium users only).
  • Play a custom video pre-roll (a video clip that will play right before the feature film starts—like the THX loto or an old-timey “Welcome to the movies!” clip).

By taking advantage of these features, you can get a gentle nudge to check out great movies already in your collection, or see what’s new in theaters and about to come out on Blu-ray. Plus it’ll feel like you’re actually at the movies.

How to Download Your Trailers and Pre-Roll

Of the four potential features we outlined above, there are only two that require you to do any prep work: trailers from your own movie collection and custom movie pre-rolls. Trailers for upcoming theater and Blu-ray releases are downloaded automatically for Plex Pass subscribers and, if that’s all your interested in, you can skip this entire section and jump down to “Enable Trailers, Previews, and Pre-Rolls”.

Here are the three ways you can add trailers to your movie collection (with their respective benefits and shortcomings):

  • Manually: Labor intensive, but you get the exact files you want and they are stored locally with the movie file in your media directory.
  • Third Party Media Managers: Automated, and stores trailers with movies. Requires additional software and setup.
  • Third Party Plugins: Automated, but stores trailers hidden away in the Plex database, not in your media directory.

If you’re a media purist who wants control over which trailers you have and where they are stored, you’re stuck with the extra work of the first two options. If you just want trailers and couldn’t care less where they’re stored, pick option three and let the plugin do the heavy lifting for you.

Adding Movie Trailers Manually

To manually set a trailer for a movie you simply need to download that trailer video from some source and then placing it in the folder where the movie is located, with the filename set to descriptivename-trailer.ext, where “descriptivename” is the a clear description of what the file is and .ext is simply whatever the existing extension of the movie is.

Let’s say we wanted to manually add a trailer to the 2012 cinematic masterpiece, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. We have the trailer in MP4 format, so we simply browse to the location of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in our collection, paste the downloaded trailer into the directory, and rename it to match the file name of the movie file, like so:

Simply repeat this process for as many movie trailers as you wish to add to your collection.

Adding Movie Trailers with a Media Manager

Manually adding a movie trailer here or there is one thing, but if you want to add trailers to hundreds of movies, that’ll get old really fast. If you want the trailers stored with your movie files but you don’t want to manually download and rename them all, you need to use third party tools like Ember Media Manager or Media Companion.

For our purposes today, we’ll be using Media Companion. The interface is cluttered to the point of being almost overwhelming, but if you know which switches to flip, it makes short work of downloading trailers for even a Library of Congress size collection.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed Media Companion, launch the application. First, make sure “Movies” is selected in the control bar (it should be selected by default) and then click on the “Folders” tab in the GUI, located towards the right hand side of the tab list, as seen below:

Next, look at the bottom of the Folders tab for the entry “Manually Add path to Movie Root Folder”. Put the full directory path to your movie collection here (e.g. C:\Media\Movies\, \\homeserver\movies\, or wherever your movies are located). Click “Add”.

Once you’ve added the directory, Media Companion will scan the folder and populate the file browser. Go to the file browser now by selecting the first tab “Main Browser”. You’ll see a list of movies on the left-hand side. Let’s download the trailer for a single movie now to demonstrate the process. Select a movie and right click on it.

In the right-click context menu, you have two tasks. First, head…

How to Create and Use Symbolic Links (aka Symlinks) on a Mac

Symbolic links, also known as symlinks, are special files that point to files or directories in other locations on your system. You can think of them like advanced aliases and here’s how to use them in MacOS.

Symbolic links are similar to aliases, except they work in every application on your Mac—including in the Terminal. They’re particularly useful when apps don’t want to work correctly with a regular alias. On macOS, you create symbolic links in the Terminal using the ln utility. You can’t create them in the Finder. Symbolic links in macOS work similarly to symbolic links in Linux, because both are Unix-like operating systems. Symbolic links in Windows work a bit differently.

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What Are Symbolic Links?

In macOS, you can create regular aliases in the Finder. Aliases point at files or folders, but they’re more like simple shortcuts.

A symbolic link is a more advanced type of alias that works in every application on the system, including command-line utilities in the terminal. A symbolic link you create appears to apps to be the same as the original file or folder it’s pointing at—even though it’s just a link.

For example, let’s say you have a program that needs its files stored at /Library/Program. But you want to store those files somewhere else on the system—for example, in /Volumes/Program. You can move the Program directory to /Volumes/Program, and then create a symbolic link at /Library/Program pointing to /Volumes/Program. The program will try to access its folder at /Library/Program, and the operating system will redirect it to /Volumes/Program.

This is entirely transparent to the macOS operating system and the applications you use. If you browse to the /Library/Program directory in the Finder or any other application, it will appear to contain the files inside /Volumes/Program.

In addition to symbolic links, which are sometimes called “soft links”, you can instead create “hard links”. A symbolic or soft link points to a path in the file system. For example, let’s say you have a symbolic—or soft—link from /Users/example pointing to /opt/example. If you move the file at /opt/example, the link at /Users/example will be broken. However, if you create a hard link, it will actually point to the underlying inode on the file system. So, if you created a hard link from /Users/example pointing to /opt/example and later moved /opt/example, the link at /Users/example would still point to the file, no matter where you moved it. The hard link works at a lower level.

You should generally use standard symbolic…

How to Add Programs, Files, and Folders to System Startup in Windows

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Some Windows apps configure themselves to automatically start whenever Windows boots. But you can make any app, file, or folder start with Windows by adding it to the Windows “Startup” folder.

  1. Press Windows+R to open the “Run” dialog box.
  2. Type “shell:startup” and then hit Enter to open the “Startup” folder.
  3. Create a shortcut in the “Startup” folder to any file, folder, or app’s executable file. It will open on startup the next time you boot.

Some apps already have a bulit-in setting for this, but if they don’t, this method is what you want. You can also make any file or folder open when Windows starts—just in case there’s something you find yourself using regularly. All you have to do is create a shortcut to whatever you want to start in a special “Startup” folder—one of Windows’ hidden system folders. This technique will work with just about any version of Windows from Vista on up through Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Note also, though, that the more programs you start on boot, the longer the startup process will appear to take. If there are any apps you don’t want to start on boot, you can disable certain startup programs too.

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How to Import and Export Contacts Between Outlook and Gmail

You can use Microsoft Outlook with just about any email account, including Gmail—but Outlook doesn’t provide a built-in way to sync your Gmail contacts. If you’ve amassed a bunch of contacts in either service, you’ll have to import them from the other manually to use them.

You could re-enter each contact one by one, of course, but we recommend importing all of your contacts in one go. In this article, we’ll demonstrate how to first export your contacts from Gmail into Outlook, and then export from Outlook into Gmail.

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How to Export Contacts from Gmail and Import Them into Outlook

To export contacts from your Gmail account, open a browser and log in to your account. Then, click on “Gmail” and then select “Contacts” from the dropdown.

Google is redesigning Contacts and you can try out the Contacts preview (click on “Try Contacts preview” in the menu on the left when viewing contacts in the old version). However, the Contacts preview does not allow you to export contacts yet, so we have to revert to the old version to export our contacts. To do that, click “Go to the old version” at the bottom of the list of options on the left.

Once you’re back in the old version of Google Contacts, click “More” at the top of the page and select “Export” from the dropdown.

Notice, you can export a group, selected contacts, or all your contacts into one of three formats. The export format should be an Outlook .CSV (CSV = Comma Separated Values, which means each field [Name, Address, Phone, etc.] is separated by a comma) file. Select the contacts you want to export, and then select the “Outlook CSV format” option.

Click “Export” to start the export process.

On the Save As dialog box, navigate to where you want to save your contacts CSV file. By default, contacts.csv is entered in the “File name” box as a suggestion for a name, but you can change that, if you want. Then, click the “Save” button.

When the export is finished, you can open the exported .CSV file in Excel and manipulate itby adding addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and other information that will help round out your address book. While this is an optional step, it’s nice to be able to go through and make your contacts neat and consistent.

When you’re ready, it’s time to import your shiny new contacts file into Outlook. Open Outlook and click the “File” tab.

On the backstage screen, click “Open & Export” on the left and then click the “Import/Export” button.

The Import and Export Wizard dialog box displays. Select “Import from another program or file” under Choose an action to perform and then click the “Next” button.

Select “Comma Separated Values” and click the “Next” button.

Now, we need to select the file to import, so click the “Browse” button.

On the Browse dialog box, navigate to the folder where you saved the .csv file, select the file, and then click the “OK” button.

Under Options, decide whether or not you want duplicates to be imported. You can save yourself time later by selecting “Do not import duplicate items” now. Click the “Next” button.

Select “Contacts” in the Select destination folder box under the email account where you want to save your contacts. Then, click the “Next” button.

The last screen on the Import a File dialog box shows you…

How to Find Out How Much Storage Space Is Used in Your Dropbox Folder

Dropbox is an excellent tool for making sure you have access to all your important files on whatever device you’re using. Finding out how much storage space is currently used up in your Dropbox folder can be slightly annoying, but we’re here to help.

Find Dropbox Storage Details in Windows

Figuring out how much of your Dropbox storage is currently used is super simple in Windows. Assuming you have the official Dropbox client installed and running, find the icon in the system tray. It might be displayed near the clock, but if not then the icon is probably hidden. Click the arrow at the left of your system tray to reveal the items tucked inside, and then find the Dropbox icon.

Click the icon to open a quick view of recent files, and then click the Settings icon in the upper right corner. The first item on the Setting menu shows you how much space (by percentage) is currently being used.

Find Dropbox Storage Details in macOS

Finding how much of your Dropbox storage space you’re using is also quite simple on the Mac. Click the Dropbox menu bar icon and you’ll see a popup window of recent files and notifications.

Click the Settings gear icon at top-right of this popup to open a menu. The first item in the menu lets you know how much total space…

Spark for Mac Adds Folder Management, Label Support, and Smart Filters

Mac: When Spark initially launched on Mac, it had enough features to get by, but it still needed to check off a few boxes to convince power users to give it a look. In an update today, they’ve added a few new tools for managing your email.

The update adds in folder management, support for labels, and smart filters. All of this stuff is prevalent in other desktop clients, but considering Spark is free and one of the better designed options around, it’s nice to see it here.

Labels are a favorite amongst many for quickly organizing emails, and…