Microsoft Windows

Magnet for Mac Is the Window Management Tool I’ve Desperately Needed

We’ve seen a few different tools for Windows-esque window management on Mac over the years, but none of those ever fit well with my workflow. Magnet is an app that’s been around for a while, but a few recent updates have finally made it the app I need.

At a glance, Magnet ($4.99, but it’s on sale right now for 99¢) is like any window snapping tool. You can organize windows neatly side-by-side, in fullscreen, quarters, thirds, or any combination of those you want. You can manage windows by dragging them, setting up keyboard shortcuts, or by using the menu bar. This alone is helpful for someone like me, who typically has dozens of windows open of varying sizes all stacked in a disorganized way that makes me spend more time in the app switcher than I’d like. If I do ever bother to manually resize a window, it’s usually just to make it large enough to peak out from another stack of apps.

What sets Magnet apart from other options is the sheer amount of polish. It doesn’t get confused by multiple displays (and in fact supports up to six external displays) and you can customize the keyboard shortcuts to suit your needs. It also supports any combination of window areas. For example, you can cram one window in the top right, another in the bottom right, then expand one window to take up the other half of the screen. Magnet also just added options for left/center/right thirds, which turns out to be the feature I was truly waiting for.

What’s especially nice about Magnet is that it doesn’t force any specific move set on you. Whether you’re a keyboard shortcut type of person, a menu person, or a mouse person, you can make user of Magnet. Let’s take a look at how all of these different options look in action.

Organize Windows…

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 Add a Drop-Down Calendar to the macOS Menu Bar Clock

Windows users can click the clock on the taskbar to see a calendar, which is perfect if you need to know what day of the week June 17th is. Macs don’t offer this feature, at least not out-of-the-box. But there are programs that can add one.

Our favorite free option is a program called Itsycal. It’s lightweight, shows your Calendar appointments, and even supports keyboard shortcuts for quick browsing. Here’s how to set it up, and even customize it to replace the clock on your menu bar.

Getting Started With Itsycal

Head to the itsycal homepage and download the application. It comes in a ZIP file which you can unarchive by clicking. Drag the application to your Applications folder.

Launch the application and you’ll see a calendar icon in your menu bar. Click this to bring up a tiny calendar popup.

Appointments are shown below the calendar, and you can click any day to see its appointments. Don’t like using the mouse? You can browse using the keyboard: “J” and “K” browse up and down, while “H” and “L” browse left and right. You can also use the arrow keys: Left and Right jump forward a month, while Up and Down jump between years.

At the bottom of the pop-up window is an icon that looks like a gear. Click to to access the preferences.

From here you can decide…

How to Move the “Show Desktop” Icon to the Quick Launch Bar or the Taskbar in Windows

If you aren’t a fan of scrolling your pointer over to the lower right corner of your monitor to show the desktop, we have a cool tweak that will allow you to add the Show Desktop icon to the Quick Launch bar or anywhere on your Taskbar.

If you want to easily get access to the Desktop in Windows 7, 8, or 10, you’ve undoubtedly noticed they moved the Show Desktop to the lower right corner of the screen. This can be annoying if you have a dual monitors, or even a large monitor.

There are a couple of ways you can make the Show Desktop icon more accessible. We’ll take a look at each and you can choose which method works best for you. We show both methods in Windows 10, but they will also work in Windows 7 and 8.

How to Put the Show Desktop Icon Back to Where it Used to Be by Adding Back the Quick Launch Bar

The first method of moving the Show Desktop icon is to add back the Quick Launch bar to the Taskbar. The Quick Launch bar contains a Show Desktop option, so once you follow the steps in our article to bring back the Quick Launch bar, you should see the Show Desktop icon on the left side of the Taskbar. If you don’t, the article also describes how to move icons on the Quick Launch bar.

This method will “kill two birds with one stone” by getting the Quick Launch bar and the Show Desktop icon back where they used to be in Windows.

How to Pin the Show Desktop Icon to the Taskbar

If you don’t want the Quick Launch bar back, you could pin the icon to the Taskbar instead. Unfortunately, the process isn’t as easy as a simple drag and drop, but there is an easy workaround.

Right-click on any empty area of the desktop and go to New > Text Document.

Rename the shortcut to Show Desktop.exe.

NOTE: You will need to have file extensions showing in order for this to work.

The following warning…

How to Upgrade Firefox from 32-bit to 64-bit in Windows Without Reinstalling

Most web browsers are installed in Windows as 64-bit versions by default, Firefox being the exception. If you installed the default download of Firefox, you have the 32-bit version, not the 64-bit version, even if you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows.

Say you recently got a new Windows computer. After installing the 32-bit version of Firefox from the main page, you installed your favorite add-ons, restored your backed up bookmarks, and even set up multiple profiles for personal and work purposes. But, now you want to upgrade to the 64-bit version of Firefox for better performance. You could uninstall the 32-bit version and then install the 64-bit version, but doing so will remove your Firefox user data, such as saved passwords, bookmarks, settings, extensions, and themes.

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You could back up your profile folders from the 32-bit version of Firefox and then restore them after uninstalling Firefox and installing the 64-bit version. But that’s a bit of a hassle, and there is an easier way.

NOTE: Firefox 64-bit can only be installed on 64-bit Windows. If you’re not sure which version of Windows you’re running, you can easily check. If you’re running 32-bit Windows, you cannot upgrade Firefox to 64-bit.

If you’re not sure if you’re running 32-bit or 64-bit Firefox,…

Microsoft, Please Stop Breaking My PC With Windows 10’s Automatic Updates

Hey Microsoft, could you please stop breaking my PC? The latest WPD driver update released on March 8, 2017 is just the latest in a long string of bad updates. If Windows 10 is going to force these updates on my system, the least Microsoft could do is test them properly first.

Don’t get us wrong: automatic updates are very important for security reasons, and we believe they are a good thing. The problem is that Microsoft isn’t just releasing security updates. They’re making major changes to Windows, and not testing the updates properly. They need to do better.

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Microsoft Just Released a Bad Driver Update, and I Have to Fix It

The latest and most obnoxious update—at least for me, personally—was the “Microsoft – WPD – 2/22/2016 12:00:00 AM – 5.2.5326.4762” update released on March 8, 2017.

Microsoft removed this update from Windows Update, but not until after my and other PCs installed it. As a Microsoft representative explained in a discussion post on Microsoft’s community forums:

“An incorrect device driver was released for Windows 10, on March 8, 2017, that affected a small group of users with connected phones or portable devices. After installation, these devices are not detected properly by Windows 10”

That’s right: Microsoft released a bad driver update that broke the MTP drivers in Windows. MTP is used to access files on connected Android phones and tablets, media players, Windows phones, and some other types of portable devices.

This update seems broken for everyone, so how did it get onto Windows Update in the first place? Driver updates are supposed to be tested through the Windows Hardware Quality Labs before they’re allowed onto Windows Update. Apparently that isn’t happening properly.

Microsoft caught the problem, so that should be the end of the story, right? Nope. Microsoft isn’t going to release an automatic fix through Windows Update to correct the problem. It’s my job to fix what Microsoft broke on my PC, and it’s your job to fix it on your PC if Windows 10 automatically installed the same update for you.

As this is a driver update, there’s no way to “uninstall” it like you would a normal update. Instead, Microsoft recommends you use a system restore point, something that won’t be possible on many PCs, as Windows 10 seems to sometimes ship with System Restore disabled. If you can’t do that, Microsoft invites you to follow a 13-step process involving the Device Manager and several commands run in an Administrator Command Prompt window.

That’s absurd. Worse yet,…

Disable WPAD in Windows to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi Networks

Web Proxy Auto-Discovery (WPAD) gives organizations a way to automatically configure a proxy server on your system. Windows enables this setting by default. Here’s why that’s a problem.

WPAD is really useful when an organization like your company or school needs to configure a proxy server for your connection to their network. It saves you from having to set things up yourself. However, WPAD can cause problems should you connect to a malicious public Wi-FI network. With WPAD enabled, that Wi-Fi network can automatically configure a proxy server in Windows. All your web browsing traffic would be routed through the proxy server while you’re connected to the Wi-Fi network—potentially exposing sensitive data. Most operating systems support WPAD. The problem is that in Windows, WPAD is enabled by default. It’s a potentially dangerous setting, and it should not be enabled unless you really need it.

WPAD, Explained

Proxy servers—not to be confused with virtual private networks (VPNs)—are sometimes required to browse the web on some business or school networks. When you configure a proxy server on your system, your system will send your browsing traffic through the proxy server rather than directly to the websites you visit. This allows organizations to perform web filtering and caching, and may be necessary to bypass the firewalls on some networks.

The WPAD protocol is designed to allow organizations to easily provide proxy settings to all devices that connect to the network. The organization can place a WPAD configuration file in a standard place, and when WPAD is enabled, your computer or other device checks to see if there’s WPAD proxy information provided by the network. Your device then automatically uses whatever settings the proxy auto-configuration (PAC) file provides, sending all traffic on the current network through the proxy server.

Windows vs. Other Operating Systems

While WPAD might be a useful feature on some business and school networks, it can cause big problems on public Wi-Fi networks. You don’t want your computer to automatically configure a proxy…

How to Use Handwriting Input on Windows 10

Windows 10’s handwriting keyboard allows you to enter text into any application with a pen or other stylus. It even works on old desktop applications.

This feature is separate from the Windows Ink Workspace, which directs you to applications with special support for pen input. The handwriting keyboard allows you to use a stylus in any application.

Finding the Handwriting Keyboard

This feature is built into Windows 10’s touch keyboard. To open it, tap the touch keyboard icon next to the clock on your taskbar.

If you don’t see the keyboard icon on your taskbar, right-click or long-press on your taskbar and enable the “Show touch keyboard button” option in the context menu.

Tap the keyboard button at the bottom right corner of the touch keyboard.

Tap the handwriting keyboard icon, which looks like a pen over an empty panel.

The handwriting input keyboard appears. By default, it spans the entire width of your display. To shrink it, tap the “Undock” button to the left of the “x” on the top right corner of the panel.

Touch the title bar of the panel with your stylus or finger to drag it around your screen and position it wherever you want it.

Once you switch to the handwriting input panel, it will automatically appear whenever you tap or click the keyboard icon on your taskbar. You’ll need to tap the keyboard button at the bottom of the touch input keyboard to select the default touch keyboard if you want to use it.

Writing With the Handwriting Keyboard

You can input text in any application with a text input field. For example, we’ll be using Notepad…

Can You Game on a Mac?

Macs have a lot of advantages. Maybe you like the simplicity of macOS, the sexy industrial design, or work in a creative field where they’re pretty much a requirement. But if you’re also a gamer, you may be wondering: can they handle the games you want to play as well as Windows?

Can You Play Games on a Mac?

Macs are made of the same components as any other PC. They’re just an Intel x86 computer in a fancier case with a different operating system. This means there’s no real hardware barrier to gaming on a Mac. It’s not like a PC has some magic video game component that your Mac lacks.

However, Macs aren’t exactly designed for gaming. The discrete graphics cards used in the high-end Macs aren’t all that great, and you don’t have the choice of the more powerful graphics cards you would in some Windows PCs. The Mac Pro is an exception, which carries a decent graphics card inside, but it’ll cost you a lot more than a comparable Windows PC would.

These graphics cards are also soldered in, so there’s no way to upgrade them a year or two down the line—even on desktops like the iMac or Mac Pro. Windows desktops are more upgradeable in this respect.

Entry level Macs don’t have dedicated graphics cards at all—they have integrated graphics chips that are even more asthmatic. They might reach the absolute minimum requirements of some popular modern games, but just barely.

There’s no way you’ll be able to play new games at full resolution with all the detail settings cranked up, even with a specced-out iMac—but they are technically capable of playing many games. Even a MacBook Air can play Minecraft. But, although it’s possible, is it worth doing?

A Mac is never going to be as good for gaming as a dedicated Windows PC, especially for the price. Even a Mac Pro can’t compete with a gaming-focused rig that costs a quarter of the Mac Pro’s $2999 price tag. If you’re serious about having the best gaming experience, your Mac isn’t going to cut it. Build your own gaming PC or buy a console and be done with it!

If you’re looking to casually play the occasional game, though, a Mac may suffice. I travel a lot, and only have my MacBook with me when I do. I’m away from my beloved PlayStation 4 for months at a time. My MacBook is able to give me a small gaming fix. It might be more methadone than heroin, but it’s something.

What Games Are Available?

The biggest issue with gaming on a Mac, though, is game availability. Windows’ DirectX APIs are incredibly popular with game developers. They don’t have any equivalents on macOS, which makes it harder for developers to port their games. Because…

How to Maximize Your Linux Laptop’s Battery Life

Laptop manufacturers spend a lot of time tuning their device drivers for Windows battery life. Linux usually doesn’t get the same attention. Linux may perform just as well as Windows on the same hardware, but it won’t necessarily have as much battery life.

Linux’s battery usage has improved dramatically over the years. The Linux kernel has gotten better, and Linux distributions automatically adjust many settings when you’re using a laptop. But you can still do some things to improve your battery life.

Basic Battery-Saving Tips

Before you do anything too complex, adjust the same settings you would on a Windows laptop or MacBook to maximize battery life.

For example, tell your Linux laptop to suspend—this is what Linux calls sleep mode—more quickly when you’re not using it. You’ll find this option in your Linux desktop’s settings. For example, head to System Settings > Power on an Ubuntu desktop.

Screen brightness can affect battery life dramatically. The brighter your display backlight, the worse your battery life will be. If your laptop has hotkeys to change screen brightness, try them—they’ll hopefully work on Linux, too. If not, you’ll find this option somewhere in your Linux desktop’s settings. It’s available at System Settings > Brightness & Lock on Ubuntu.

You can also tell your Linux desktop to turn off the screen more quickly when it’s inactive. The laptop will use less power when its screen is off. Don’t use a screensaver, as those just waste power by making your computer do more work and leaving the display on.

You can also disable hardware radios you don’t use. For example, if you don’t use Bluetooth, you can disable it to gain some more battery life. Head to System Settings > Bluetooth to disable Bluetooth on an Ubuntu desktop.

If you’re not using Wi-Fi, you can save a bit of power by disabling that, too. On Ubuntu, head to System Settings > Network and enable “Airplane Mode” to disable Wi-Fi and other wireless radios.

Remember that what you do with the laptop is also important. Running heavier software and using more CPU resources will cause your laptop to use more battery power. For this reason, you may want to look at a more lightweight desktop environment, such as the Lxde-based Lubuntu instead of the Unity-based main Ubuntu desktop.

Install Proprietary Graphics Drivers (If You Need Them)

If your laptop has integrated Intel graphics, congratulations. You shouldn’t need to worry about power management issues with your graphics drivers. Intel graphics aren’t the fastest, but they have excellent open-source driver support and “just work” out of the box.

If your laptop has NVIDIA or AMD graphics, however, you may need to do some work to decrease power consumption.

The worst case scenario is a laptop with NVIDIA Optimus or AMD’s switchable graphics. Such laptops have two different GPUs. For example, an NVIDIA Optimus laptop will have both a more powerful, battery-draining NVIDIA GPU and a less powerful, battery-friendly Intel GPU. On…