Use Microsoft Office Picture Manager for Quick Photo Edits

There are a lot of great photo editors on the market. Some are very robust and expensive, while others are free. To be honest, there are about as many photo editors out there as there are camera models. Today I would like to tell you about one that is probably sitting right under your nose and you’ve never used it. It is called “Microsoft Office Picture Manager” and it comes bundled with Microsoft Office.

I would like to show you an example of the photo editing power of Picture Manager. Let’s begin by opening a picture on our computer. Below you will see a lighthouse picture I took in Portland, Maine.

Lighthouse

Let’s say, for example, that I wanted to turn this photo black and white. This is very simple to do using Picture Manager. First, let’s open the picture in Picture Manager. Below, you will see where I right clicked the photo, then chose the “Open With” option, and then clicked “Microsoft Office Picture Manager”.

Open With Menu

Now we’ll need to click the button at the top of the window that says “Edit Pictures…” See the picture below to see what the button looks like.

Edit Button

Now, you will get a toolbar on the right side of the screen. You will notice a very large “Auto Correct” button. If you have a photo that may be a little too dark and grainy, sometimes clicking this button will help correct common color and lighting errors. In the picture below, you will notice an area highlighted under the heading “Edit using these tools”. Here are some commonly used photo editing tools. The one I would like to deal with in this tutorial is under the heading “Color”.

Toolbar Options

When you click the heading that says “Color”, you will get the menu options pictured below.

Color Menu

Using this menu, you can do some really cool things to your photo. You can also royally screw up the color balance so make sure you keep the “Undo” button handy. You will notice that there are three sliders that will allow you to use your mouse to click and drag to change the value in each box. Remember the goal of this particular tutorial is to make this photo black and white. To accomplish this we’ll need to desaturate the photo. Saturation basically is a term for how much color is in the photo. If we drag the “Saturation” slider all the way to the left, we are essentially saying we want to take all of the color out of the photo.  Now, our picture is black and white.  See the picture below.

Lighthouse Black and White

There are many other useful tools in Microsoft Office Picture Manager. You can easily fix red eye, flip and rotate pictures, and more. It may not be the most robust tool out there, but for the novice user, it is easy to use. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions.

New Windows 8 Video Demonstrates a Significantly Enhanced Explorer

Thanks to the numerous leaked Windows 8 builds and Microsoft’s demo at D9, we already have a fair bit of idea regarding what to expect in Windows 8. We know that Windows 8 will feature a new Metro inspired full-screen interface, ribbon interface for Windows explorer, new touchscreen gestures, pattern logon, enhanced task manager, in-built PDF reader and webcam apps, and an app store. However, there is still a lot that Microsoft has managed to keep under wraps.

A few minutes back, Microsoft published a new video to demonstrate the enhanced new Explorer that will be shipped with Windows 8. We already knew that Microsoft will be using the Ribbon UI in the new Explorer. However, the real charm lies in the details.

Windows-8-Explorer-Ribbon-UI

Windows Explorer already includes plenty of nifty little features. However, most of these features are rarely used by users as they are hidden in obscure locations. Microsoft’s telemetry data suggests that the top 10 explorer commands form over 80% of the explorer usage. The new Ribbon interface will put these commonly used functionalities front and center. At the same time, the Microsoft is also attempting to reveal lesser known features through tabs in the Ribbon UI. Check out the video embedded below to see the new Explorer in action.


Download

At first glance the Windows 8 explorer seems to offer the perfect blend of simplicity and power. Advanced users will appreciate features like copy path, launch Command Prompt in Administrator mode, and context aware searching. However, the simple and logical organization of all of these features into tabs will ensure that novices aren’t scared away.

Skitch now Free for All Users, Coming Soon to a All Platforms

Skitch, which is arguably the best screen shot annotation app on the Mac, is now free to all users. Thanks to Evernote, who announced that they have acquired Skitch Thursday, the highly popular image capturing and annotating app is now available for free on the Mac App Store. It was previously available for $19.99.

Evernote is a fantastic free note taking and organization application that I have mentioned before. They currently have applications available on 14 different platforms, including iOS, Android, Mac, PC, and the Web. They are now planning on expanding their service by bringing Skitch to all of those platforms, giving users of Windows and Linux the ability to use one of my favorite blogging tools.

evernoteskitch.jpg

There has been full timeline released for Evernote’s release of Skitch across its platforms. They have said that their Android app is available now in the Android Market for absolutely nothing. They also said they are working on their iOS and Windows apps, and hope to have them out as soon as possible.

They also promised deeper integration of Skitch into Evernote. In their blog post, Evernote said that Skitch represented their fulfillment of a promise to users. That promise was to bring better image editing to Evernote, and Skitch fits that bill nicely. I am looking forward to trying it out with the next versions of Evernote.

If you are a Mac user and do any kind of image annotation or screen shot work, then Skitch is an app you should defiantly pick up. I recommended it when it was $20, and now that its free I think it should come preinstalled on all Macs. Grab it form the Mac App Store today.

Who can compete with the iPad?

The iPad is the king of tablets

Apple’s iPad has dominated tablet sales so far. Android tablets have started making some dents, but none of them are really gaining steam as a product (vs. Android tablets gaining some share as a collection). Harry McCracken at Technologizer asked the simple question every tablet maker should be asking at the time of creating their products: Why should someone buy this instead of an iPad?.

Not just the hardware

The iPad and iPad2 are exceptional products by themselves. Great design (although, I could do with a non-glossy/non-reflective screen), light enough to be really portable, GREAT battery life, and to me, a good size for a screen which would be used for media consumption like movies and TV shows via Netflix, hulu and the like.

The key to their success though, besides the hardware itself and the beauty of the operating system, is the ecosystem. The apps, music, movies, podcasts, iTunes U, and the sometimes overlooked accessory industry. Apple has made slow and steady progress in putting these pieces together and has a seemingly invincible position, but in the world of technology today, it could be very short-lived.

Of course, the starting price of $500, thought by many at the time of the iPad launch to be too high, seems like another killer feature of the iPad.

Ecosystem providers, real competition

Who can really compete with the iPad? Not just the tablet, but the entire package of the tablet, the ecosystem, and the price? Remember, it may be ok to just meet the iPad, but in order to create a serious dent, the competition has to have a pretty big advantage on almost all of the aspects. So, let’s see who is competing:

  • Android at the low end: Cheap Android tablets are everywhere but they may not have Google’s blessing and as a result be cut off from the first-class Android experience, including the Android Market. So they have the price advantage but nothing else.
  • Android at the top end: Motorola XOOM and Galaxy Tab started off as 3G devices sold by the carriers. They required a data contract or ended up costing more without data contract, than an iPad. They suffered from the data contract/price issue to start with, but more importantly, there are hardly any apps for Android in the tablet form factor. An ecosystem though, is not just about the apps, it should also provide a good collection of music, movies and TV shows, which Android seems to lack today.
  • HP TouchPad with webOS: HP recently launched the TouchPad and the sales as well as reviews are not encouraging. HP has a problem similar to Android tablets in terms of getting quality apps available for the customers. It does not have to be hundreds of thousands of apps like the iPad apps, but when you start from zero, it is really an uphill climb. HP does not have a marketplace for music, videos and TV either, but it is big enough to cut some deals and get something going. The point right now though, is that there is nothing on offer, making it difficult to justify the purchase for consumer use.
  • RIM Playbook and Windows 7 slates: I won’t go into too much detail because it is clear that RIM released this thing too soon. It is an unfinished product and has been a flop so far. It is hard to imagine a product from the maker of Blackberry devices that does not have native email and calendar. Native email and calendar are supposed to be coming this summer, but until then it is an incomplete product.   I am similarly ignoring Windows 7 tablets like the the Asus slate, because Windows 7 Touch seems like touch was slapped on Windows 7 rather than it being built for touch-first use. While it works much like a PC, thereby providing a healthy ecosystem to rely on, it is not really an iPad competitor because it is not as light, and is way more expensive.

Windows 8, Amazon tablet Two legitimate competitors

We know very little about Windows 8 and almost nothing about the Amazon tablet. In fact, we don’t even know if any such product is going to come from Amazon, but here is why I think either of these, or both, are going to be viable competitors to iPad (and also lay out conditions for their success).

Windows 8 (especially ARM version): ARM is known for its power efficiency, and we can assume that it will enable small form factor Windows 8 devices with a long battery life. Combine this with the public announcement by Steven Sinofsky that Windows 8 system requirements are going to be same or lesser than Windows 7, and we have a good chance of seeing Windows 8 tablets/slates in the iPad form factor with similar battery life. Windows has a great ecosystem which it supports on the XBOX and Windows Phone, in the form of the Zune Marketplace. It provides a huge collection of music, movies and TV shows. Windows of course, has the most extensive applications catalog (although the current Windows applications will not automatically work on ARM, but will do on Intel architecture as-is). Windows Phone has rapidly grown its app catalog, starting from zero in October/November of 2010 to about 25,000 this June. Since we don’t know what Windows 8 application development will be like outside of HTML/Javascript, let’s just assume that the app ecosystem will be rich enough to start with. This assumption is generally for Windows 8 with full support for legacyWindows applications. We cannot discuss ARM applications until we know more, supposedly at the //build/ conference in September this year.

One concern I have is that Microsoft seems to be fixated on the fact that tabletsare full PC’s, just in a different form factor. Maybe they consider slatesto be the lightweight PC with a similar form factor. I hope that one way or the other, that they understand that there is a product category which is not necessarily a full PC, but serves the purpose of casual computing much like the iPad does today.

Amazon tablet: Of all Android tablet makers, Amazon surprisingly is poised to be the best equipped in terms of an ecosystem it supports music, movies, TV shows, instant streaming, subscription, cloud storage, cloud music player, digital goods, and very recently, even its own curated Android market for apps! It has already shown manufacturing prowess with the highly successful Kindle, although I understand components for a tablet are different from those used in making the Kindle. Amazon also has a great retail shelf spaceto sell their tablet, and that is their home page, visited by millions of people every day.

If they can pull off a 9- or a 10-inch tablet built on Android with their own marketplace for apps, movies, music and TV shows, they would immediately be a competitor.

It is strange that I feel most optimistic about something that we may not see for one more year, and something that does not even exist as a product today. Such is the state of iPad competition (or lack thereof) today, that we are left to place our bets on almost-unicorns and unicorns.

I sure hope there is some real competition for the iPad though, because that can only be good for us, the consumers. Right?

End of the Road for Microsoft Office XP and Vista SP1

Microsoft will be retiring Office XP and Vista Service Pack 1 at the end of the day. They will be reaching the end of their support phase (extended support phase for Office XP), which means that Microsoft will stop releasing hotfixes and security updates for these products.

Office XP was released way back in May, 2001. It introduced SharePoint, Web Services integration, speech recognition and more. However, the thing for which Office XP will probably be remembered fondly by users is not a new feature. Rather it’s the omission of a feature that had characterized earlier Office releases. In 2001, Microsoft finally killed Clippy, for good.

Clippy
Clippy

Vista SP1 is a much more recent offering. It was released in a phased manner during the first quarter of 2008. However, it has since been superseded by Service Pack 2 and Windows 7. Vista Service Pack 1 fixed many of the annoying bugs that Vista had originally shipped with, in addition to adding support for exFAT file system, 802.11n wireless networking, IPv6 over VPN connections.

Windows Vista SP2 will lose its mainstream support on April 10, 2012, but extended life support will last till April 11, 2017. Extended life support as well as Mainstream support entitles users to free security updates, however the former doesn’t include non-security related miscellaneous updates. Microsoft is yet to announce the support lifecycle for Windows 7.

Windows and Desktop Software Aren’t Dead

The debacle’ of Windows Vista and the proliferation of quality Web applications had Microsoft on a sticky wicket couple of years back. Critics, and even a section of fans, wondered if Microsoft could pull off a winner in Windows 7 against the negative sentiments and the overt Apple hype and if Microsoft was doing a wise thing investing in desktop applications in the age of online productivity suites.Windows 7

Well the obituary writers were clearly wrong if the numbers are any testimony. Great reviews by both consumers and businesses followed the launch of Windows 7 in October 2009, and today at the annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles, Steve Ballmer announced that more than 400 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold in less than two years. During the keynote, Ballmer also announced that Office 2010, shipped in June 2010, has sold over 100 million copies.

Microsoft Corp.’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) is a four-day event that celebrates the accomplishments of the company’s global partners. Steve Ballmer delivered the keynote on the first day of the event today before nearly 15,000 partners from around the globe. You can find the recording of the keynote here.

Windows is arguably the heart of the Redmond company and   Windows and Office together have traditionally been major revenue-grossers for Microsoft in the consumer as well as enterprise market. A dent in this space would’ve hurt Microsoft’s overall ecosystem. In a rough sense, an enterprise not on Windows is most likely not a customer of any of the Microsoft’s slew of server and enterprise products.

The latest numbers reveal that Microsoft is still going strong with the old workhorses – in sales, if not in the mindshare. Windows 7 is the fastest-selling operating system in history and according to a previous statement by Microsoft, 7 copies of Windows 7 sold every second. According to Net Applications, Windows 7 is now running on 27.13% of all PCs worldwide as of June 2011. Office 2010 is also the fastest-selling version of Office in history.

5 Windows Apps to Quickly Disable Stuff

Every so often, you   might want to disable something on your PC. However, you’ll need to dig deep down in the Control Panel settings to make that happen. Here are five apps that let you disable everything from your Aero Glass effects to your keyboard at the click of a button.

1. Disable the touchpad with TouchFreeze

touchfreeze

Changing specific settings to automatically disable the touchpad when typing could be cumbersome, so TouchFreeze comes to the rescue. You needn’t fiddle with the Control Panel settings anymore – just install the utility and you’re done – the touchpad will not be active during typing if TouchFreeze is running.

2. Disable Aero Effects with Aerofoil

aerofoil

Aerofoil is a simple utility that runs from the system tray and lets you disable all snazzy Aero Glass effects in Windows 7 with a single click. You can also use it to switch between multiple power plans you’ve created.

3. Disable the keyboard with Kid Key Lock

kidkeylock

Kid Lock disables standard and special keys on your keyboard and mouse buttons. Pretty useful when you’re going to clean your keyboard or if you have kids or pets in your home. The program runs from the system tray.

4. Disable the CapsLock key with Handicapslock

If you find yourself hitting the Caps Lock key often when you shouldn’t, chances are you want to disable it. A Lifehacker reader created an AutoHotkey script that activates the Caps Lock key only when it’s pressed twice, and you can download the same as an .exe from here.

We haven’t tried this ourselves, but give it a go and let us know.

5. Disable UAC Prompts with TweakUAC

tweakuac

If you never want to get annoyed by those User Account Control notifications that often pop up, download TweakUAC and just hit Leave UAC off. The UAC is completely disabled, so you’ll never get to see those again.

=== About the Author ===

Shankar writes at Killer Tech Tips, on everything ranging from keyboard shortcuts that make you productive to advanced Google search operators you may not know about. Check out his blog!

Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper Heals Virus Infected Systems

Windows-System-SweeperMicrosoft has quietly released a new security tool called Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper. The product is currently in beta, and is meant to complement Microsoft Security Essentials, which by itself is an excellent antivirus software.

Microsoft has never been good at naming things, and Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper only reinforces that fact. However, Microsoft does have a reputation of developing stellar Windows applications. According to most third party tests, Microsoft Security Essentials is as good as (or even better than) most other antimalware software available in the market. System Sweeper could turn out to be another extremely handy tool from the software giant.

Microsoft-System-Sweeper

System Sweeper creates a bootable rescue disk that can be used for scanning systems without booting into Windows. This can be helpful in getting rid of hard to remove malware, or detecting advanced rootkits. It also makes it possible to run a scan even when Windows has been rendered unusable by malware infections.

System Sweeper is available in both 32 bit and 64 bit flavors, and supports Windows XP (SP3), Vista and 7. It is capable of creating bootable CDs, DVDs, and USB devices. The latest definitions are downloaded from the web; hence, an internet connection is required for creating the bootable image.

Microsoft-System-Sweeper-Create-Rescue-Disk

Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper isn’t a revolutionary product. Most other antivirus vendors have been offering system rescue disks for a long time. However, it’s nice to see Microsoft stepping up its game, and getting serious about offering a comprehensive set of tools for tackling malware infections.

[ Download Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper ]

Thumbnail via OpenClipArt

Have Better Control Over Windows Networks With Checklan Basic 1.2.2

Checklan Basic 1.2.2 is an agentless network monitoring tool used for asset management both locally and remotely. It helps to create in a simple and effective way , an inventory of all computers in the network and can be categorized by operating system, BIOS, software , disks, memory, configuration of machines as IP address as well as enumerate local users and groups on each and every server or workstation.This version also allows machine specific inventory and it operates in real time mode.

checklan-basic-clip-01

All Windows processes are managed by server. It can display detailed report lists in Internet Explorer, as well as create and terminate processes remotely or locally.

checklan-basic-administrator

Features:

1. Checklan Basic can start, stop, and change mode of Windows Services .

2. All Windows services are checked by server including Microsoft UNIX Services.

3. It can also do shut downs , restarts and logoffs.

4. Sockets to UNIX / Windows /AIX servers for internet or intranet are managed and detailed report lists are displayed in Internet Explorer.

5. Using the tool, shares can be managed in real time. Both remote and local share creation and deletion can be accomplished as well as detailed reports are displayed in Internet Explorer.

6. All Windows printers are managed in real time. It can locally and remotely pause, resume, obtain printer error and printing status as well as manage printer properties.

7. All Windows Performance counters are checked in real time and at counter level details .

Even if you are just starting out as a network manager for your team, all necessary documents for installation, Microsoft SQL databases deployment, SSRS & ASP.net reports are provided by the Checklan team for free.

Checklan Basic 1.2.2 is free to use and the the download file size is approximately 6.29 Mb. Checklan Admin Basic 1.2.2 is currently compatible with Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Windows XP Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows NT 4.x.

[Download Checklan Basic]

Intel Launching More than 10 New Tablets at Computex 2011

With the explosion of the many new tablet platforms in the past year, there has been one clear winner – Apple. Even Google is expected to have a winner on its hands with Android 3.0 Honeycomb. RIM and HP are trying to get some piece of the tablet market as well, with the Playbook and webOS tablets.

If there has been a clear loser since the whole tablet revolution, it has been Intel. Well, Microsoft hasn’t done very well either, but with Windows 8, it plans to enter the tablet market in full force. Whether or not it will be too late to the party is something I would like to discuss in another post.

Coming back to Intel, it has been clearly hit hard by the recent smartphone and tablet disruption. Almost all smartphones and tablets use processors designed by ARM. While Intel has a monopoly in the X86 PC processor market, it doesn’t have any significant marketshare in the tablet arena.

With the world shifting to tablets and smartphones, and PC sales declining rapidly, Intel is trying very hard to gain a foothold in the tablet segment. According to a report by WSJ, It will be showcasing more than 10 new tablets at Computex 2011, which starts May 31.

More than 35 of Intel’s chip-based tablet models are on track to be shipped through the year, according to Intel’s general manager for Asia-Pacific, Navin Shenoy. Its new tablets will be powered by the Oak Trail platform which offers better power management, coupled with faster performance. It willl likely launch Android, MeeGo and Windows based tablets.