4 Useful Websites To Help You Pronounce Names Correctly

As a blogger I have to answer many questions to readers from across the world. Luckily, I converse with them either via emails

Lock Your Computer With Secure My Screen

There are several tools and methods to protect a computer from unauthorized access under a working environment. I had mentioned many of them in previous posts.

Create Multiple Aliases with Outlook.com Account

Microsoft has launched the latest version of their webmail service called Outlook.com. The new webmail replaces the existing Hotmail and users can now create their new Outlook.com email address

Friday, May 31, 2013

Open Word, Excel & PowerPoint Files In Chrome With Office Viewer

Open Word, Excel & PowerPoint Files In Chrome With Office Viewer:
Chrome can open a lot of different files without the need to install any extra plugins, extensions, or scripts. In fact, many modern browsers can open some of the common file types that are used everyday including media files in MP3 and MP4 format, and PDF documents. Granted that browsers aren’t the best file viewers for multimedia files, they are still great for quick previews or when you don’t have your preferred app available. The one file format, or rather the group of file formats that browsers don’t normally support by default are Microsoft Office documents, presentations, spreadsheets et al. If you don’t have Office installed on your PC or Mac, you can turn to Google Drive’s web version or services like Box and Jumpshare that offer online file previews in order to view these files. Chrome users on the Beta channel now have another option. Google has released a new extension called Chrome Office Viewer that allows you to drag and drop your Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files to your browser’s window and view them in it directly. The extension is currently experimental, so expect a hiccup or two here and there.
Chrome Office Viewer is a rather large 25MB download and as mentioned above, it will work only on the Beta channel. Whether it will be compatible with the next stable version of Chrome or not is unclear right now, but we’re going to stay optimistic about it. Chrome Office Viewer supports DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, and PPTX formats. Office power users will no doubt note that there is no support for other office file formats for Publisher, Visio etc.

Chrome Office Viewer will work in the background and load automatically when you drag & drop a supported file on a Chrome window. If you were to do the same with the extension disabled, or with the stable version of Chrome, the file would simply appear to download as if you were downloading it from the internet.
Chrome Office Viewer
Chrome Office Viewer renders PowerPoint presentations quite well – better than most online viewers. A sidebar allows you to navigate to different slides, and the presentation can be viewed in full screen mode as well. The extension doesn’t play the file as a slideshow though, and you have to switch to the next slide manually.
Chrome Office Viewer ppt
While it’s all still experimental, we would like to see the extension show a document’s title as the tab’s title. The extension loads the files themselves very quickly, and you won’t likely find a parallel to it. We tested the extension with files of relatively small size. Let us know in the comments how it worked for you. Do make sure you’re using the latest Beta version of Chrome.
Install Chrome Office Viewer From Chrome Web Store
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List of All Time Best Selling Phones


Mobile phones have been the single best invention which has changed our lives drastically. Over the past couple of decades, the use of mobile phones (smartphones) have increased considerably and they have become better in features. Now we have hundreds of different types of phones with different features and price range. Today is the 40th anniversary of the birth of the mobile phone, the single most important invention of the last 100 years.
There are many models which have been huge hits like the iPhones in recent past, but are they the highest selling phone of all time?
Nokia-1110-02

Nokia Conversation team has compiled the list of best selling phones till date. Below is the list and it is in ascending order, the last phone being the highest selling one.
  1. Nokia 2850 – One of the few clamshell designs from Nokia. Came out in 2004 and went on to sell 35 million.
  2. iPhone 3GS – Sold around 35 million.
  3. Samsung Galaxy SII and SIII – each of these has sold around 40 million units*
  4. Nokia 6230 – announced in 2003, sold 50 million, and still one of the loudest phones we’ve produced.
  5. Nokia 3100 – released in 2003; sold over 50 million. Pink and blue were the best.
  6. Motorola StarTAC – back in 1996
  7. Motorola C200
  8. iPhone 4S – launched in 2011. Estimated at just over 60 million sales.
  9. Nokia 5130 – one of the phones to debut XpressMusic; 65 million sold.
  10. Nokia 6010 – coming with a colour screen!
  11. Nokia 1208 – tough and affordable; 100 million sold.
  12. Nokia 1600 – Do you recall playing Soccer League on one of these? 130 million people do.
  13. Motorola Razr V3
  14. Nokia 2600 – very nicely designed keyboard on this one.
  15. Nokia 3310 – one of my own first Nokias from 2000.
  16. Nokia 5230 – one of the youngsters on the list; launched in 2010 and went on to sell 150 million.
  17. Nokia 1200 – born 2007; sold 150 million.
  18. Nokia 3210 – Adam on the editorial team still owns one of these.
  19. Nokia 1110 – sold an astonishing 250 million after it went on sale in 2005.
* Slot no 3 comes with 2 phones (Galaxy S11 and S3) both selling at 40 million.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Set Any Tweet To Auto-Delete After Set Time With Efemr For Twitter

Set Any Tweet To Auto-Delete After Set Time With Efemr For Twitter:
Self destructing messages and notes à la Mission:Impossible franchise have been around on the internet for a while now, and services like SnapChat and Facebook poke have been offering such option in several forms. Though ever wished you could send a tweet that could self-destruct after a set time, without you having to remember to manually delete it later? It is a new concept in its entirety recently introduced by Efemr. If you’re thinking why would anyone want to destroy their own tweets, there can be many use case scenarios, one of which is a limited-time sales promotion. Whatever it may be, Efemr has a lot of potential in letting you post self-destructing tweets that are automatically deleted after a specified time.


Here’s how Efemr actually works. You simply write your tweets as you generally would on the Twitter website or app, followed by adding a time Hashtag representing its auto deletion time. For example, if you want to delete your tweet after five minutes, then simply write #5m after the message. Likewise, you can put #2h for two hours and so on. To get started, visit the website and sign in with your Twitter credentials in order to grant the required app the required permissions to access your tweets.
Efemr-for-Twitter
Once logged in, you can start sending tweets as you usually would via the signature feather button. Efemr cites that it can sometime take more time to destroy your tweets than it’s supposed to, the reason being the time zone differences and server response times around the globe. However, during testing of the app, I found it fairly robust and effective, destroying my test tweets at reasonably accurate right times.
Efemr_Tweet
For instance, my first tweet with hashtag #5m disappeared exactly after five minutes. Though the second tweet took 4 minutes to go out of sight, when the specified time was 2 minutes. Nevertheless, everything worked reasonably well.
Efemr_Tweets
Efemr also keeps a tab on all your deleted tweets and archives them in a dashboard, which you can access by logging in with your Twitter account on the Efemr website. The dashboard displays a list of all your tweets with self-destruct tags, along with their creation time and status. In addition, you can retweet any of them via the pertaining action button, though there is no way to edit them before retweeting, so the original text and hashtag will remain intact.
Efemr_Tweets All
All in all, it’s a unique and fun to use service that makes it possible to send self-destructive tweets without much additional effort or having to remember to delete them later manually.
Visit Efemr
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Get Reverse Google Image Search Option For Facebook Photos In Firefox


Google’s reverse image search is a very handy feature. I’ve used it often to find the original source of an image, or in the case where I like an image for my desktop background, it has helped me find its largest available size. In the past, we’ve covered quite a number of extensions and add-ons that add Google’s reverse Image search to browsers’ right-click context menu, allowing you to right-click an image and search for it. Facebook Photo Appraiser is a similar add-on for Firefox that integrate with Facebook and adds a ‘Similar images’ option for all images on the social network, images allowing you to reverse search them. The search results open in a new tab.


After installing Appraiser, just open an image from your Facebook feed and you will see a new ‘Similar Images’ option next to the Like and Comment links. The add-on works in theater mode but it’s buggy. At first, we had trouble getting it to work but a few page refreshes later, it was working fine. Should the extension fail to load in theater mode, you should view it normally i.e. with theater mode disabled. To do so, refresh the page and it will load in the old image viewer.
Firefox-Google-Image-reverse-search-Facebook-add-on
You will find that Facebook Photo Appraiser adds the ‘similar images’ option under pictures on your timeline as well, which shows that the developer has covered all the bases. Whether you’re viewing an image in theater mode, in the old viewer, or on your timeline, the reverse image search option is always available.
Facebook Photo Appraiser is pretty simple and straightforward, and the only issue with it seems to be its occasional reluctance to work in Theater mode, which should be fixed. Also, it adds a pointless button to the add-on bar. I like to keep the add-on bar hidden and move all buttons that I require to the Navigation bar but for those who do utilize the add-on bar, this is a waste of space that they will have to manually get rid of. If the developer would like to really take the add-on further, other image search engines can be integrated, or the user can be given the choice to add search engines of their own choice.
Install Facebook Photo Appraiser For Firefox
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Hands-On With Google Hangouts Unified, Cross-Platform IM & Video Chat


Google-Hangouts-for-Google+-Android-iOS
The Google I/O keynote yesterday brought a lot of important announcements, but the revamped Hangouts service seems to have managed to cause the most excitement among them all so far, probably because it has already been rolled out for users all over the world. The iOS app is available in the App Store, while  lot of Android users have managed to get their hands on the Hangouts update for their Google Talk app as well. Google already offered its Google Talk (also called GTalk, Google Chat and Gmail Chat) already enjoyed integration with Google+ and Gmail but compared to the Hangouts feature of Google+, it wasn’t too heavy on features. Some of you might have wondered why the plain old chat can’t become as cool as its Google+ variant. Even if you have never thought of that possibility, Google seems to have been thinking along those lines. The new Hangouts can be considered a consolidation of Google Talk and Google+ Hangouts that works on Android, iOS, Google+ and Chrome. The service offers everything from video calling to group chat, and even a huge collection of emoticons.


Hangouts For Chrome

Hangouts Chrome
The new Hangouts extension is available in the Chrome Web Store and once installed, it makes sure you stay in touch with your friends even when Chrome is closed. If you choose to stay logged in permanently, the extension becomes active as soon as your computer is turned on like a system tray app (with an icon there too), ensuring not a single message is ever missed.
The first thing you have to do after installing Hangouts for Chrome is to sign in to your Google account. Upon doing that, all your Google contacts show up in the main screen’s list. To begin a new chat session (or Hangout), simply begin typing a contact’s name or ID in the field at the top of the window. You can chat with a single person, or start a group hangout. The chat window itself is pretty simple, and has two main views. The buttons at the top of the screen can be used to switch between text chat and video calling. During a video call, you can invite more people to join your hangout, control the call’s volume and switch cameras. If you are simply sending text messages, you can share photos or send any of the 850 available emoticons. From the extension’s settings menu, you can configure its chat windows to always stay on top  of all other windows.

The New Google+ Hangouts

Google+-Hangouts
Google+ has received a major overhaul today, and the new Hangouts improvements apply here as well. No matter where you are in Google+, initiating a hangout is never difficult. Simply click the green icon in the top-right corner and choose your ‘Hangout Party’. The chat windows aren’t too different from the ones that show up in Hangouts for Chrome, so basically it’s this Google+ version that has been used as a model for the other apps of the service, which makes sense since Hangouts launched as a Google+ feature in the first place.

Hangouts For iOS

Hangouts iOS Selec Hangouts iOS Contacts Hangouts iOS Settings
Since there has never been an official Google Talk client for iOS, it is pretty big news that Hangouts has been released for iPhone and iPad as well. Although Hangouts were available as part of the Google+ app, having a standalone client that even lets you chat with your GTalk contacts has got to be welcomed by many. Not only does the iOS app let you stay in touch with your friends, but you can now swap video calls with any number of your friends as well. Group hangouts allow up to ten participants, which is more than enough for most scenarios.
Using the app isn’t too difficult, as Google has refrained from making things overly complicated. To begin a hangout, tap the ‘+’ icon from the top bar and begin choosing your correspondents. All ongoing sessions have entries of their own on the app’s main screen. These threads can be archived simply with a leftwards swipe. Your hangout archives can be accessed by tapping the gear icon located in the top bar. From the same settings screen, Hangouts users get to snooze notifications and manage received requests or blocked profiles.
Hangouts iOS Chat Hangouts iOS VIdeo Hangouts iOS Chat Options
Much like the Chrome and G+ versions of the service, the chat window has video and text modes. Video controls are located in the bottom bar, while you can view a thread’s options by tapping the contact icon at the top of the screen. During text chats, it is possible to share photos straight from your iPhone’s camera, or by attaching the ones that are already in your camera roll. For every thread, you can add more people, toggle notifications, or go off the record. Lastly, you can block contacts and delete or archive conversations.

Hangouts For Android

Hangouts-for-Android-conversations Hangouts-for-Android-emoji
For Android, Hangouts has been rolled out as an update for the stock Talk app, and is gradually rolling out to all Android devices running 2.2 Froyo or later. The app is sure to be visible for everyone in the Google Play Store but if can’t seem to install it from there yet (it may tell you that you have the app already installed, basically referring to Google Talk), you have to wait for a while longer till you get the update notification in Play Store on your device.
Google-Hangouts-for-Android-tablets
There are some UI differences between the Android and iOS versions of Hangouts. On Android, the app’s settings are accessible right on the main screen, and you don’t have to go to a separate section for them. Rather than having to use the back button to go to the conversations view, users can simply swipe between the most recent chat window and the list of all active threads. Unlike the iOS app, Hangouts for Android has an emoticon button of its own, which lets you open the categorized collection of smileys from Google.
The biggest criticism that Hangouts has been facing until now is that there is no way of changing your availability status on it. So, if you like staying ‘Invisible’ until initiating a chat session, Hangouts is probably going to be a little disappointing. Also, there was a lot of speculation about Google integrating SMS support into the service, making it truly ubiquitous for all communication, but that hasn’t happened. Lastly, the chat section in Gmail still shows the old interface and hasn’t been updated to Hangouts yet, which is a significant omission since many of us use Google’s chat service in Gmail.
The Android and iOS apps are a little buggy for now, but we are sure the service will have Google’s constant attention so that it can keep getting better. You can start using the new Hangouts without downloading anything by heading to Google+, or grab them for Chrome, iOS or Android from the links provided below.
Download Hangouts For Chrome
Download Hangouts For Android
Download Hangouts For iOS
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Change UI Accent Color Of iPhone Apps With Emphasize

Change UI Accent Color Of iPhone Apps With Emphasize:
I know a lot of people who aren’t really into Winterboard themes despite having a jailbroken iDevice. While theming can give your device a completely new look, it does come with a few drawbacks. For one thing, your device’s battery life might be negatively affected if the theme is a bit too flashy, and you also end up losing all the finesse that defines iOS. So, if you don’t have any serious issues with the way things appear in iOS by default, Emphasize might still manage to win you over. The tweak lets you change the color of basic UI elements in iOS. In iOS 6, the status bar changes color to match the current app’s theme. There have also been tweaks like WeatherBar in the past, which are aimed at making your iPhone’s screen appear more interesting and colorful. Emphasize goes one step further, and lets you choose the basic UI color of a third-party or system app.
Emphasize iOS Settings Emphasize iOS Colors Emphasize iOS App

Emphasize does not make any changes to the iOS UI automatically after its installation, as users have to configure the tweak through the menu it adds to the stock Settings app. The main page of the menu lists all the apps installed on your device, but the top option says ‘Default’. The default color saves you from the hassle of having to assign a separate color to each app. If you assign a particular color to an app via Emphasize, the default setting is overridden every time the said app is launched.
Photos-app-PlumClock-app-Varidian
Apart from selecting ordinary colors like blue, pink, yellow, orange, etc., the tweak also enables users to apply the default iOS colors to apps that don’t ordinarily have it. The same color options show up when you tap the entry of any app within the Emphasize menu.
Emphasize won’t change the default colors in all sections of third-party apps, as it has been designed to replace only stock iOS colors. If an app uses those APIs though, the tweak makes the changes. Emphasize also kicks the status bar color-change into action, and the overall result is pretty neat.
Accentify is a paid tweak that has been released pretty recently as well, and serves roughly the same purpose. However, Emphasize is available for free and has been developed by the famous Ryan Petrich. The colors in Emphasize look pretty natural in iOS, and we highly recommend it to anyone who wants to spice up things without the help of Winterboard. To download Emphasize, look in the following repo of the Cydia store.
http://rpetri.ch/repo/
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MP3 Cover Finder Is A Complete Music Album Art Search Tool For Windows

MP3 Cover Finder Is A Complete Music Album Art Search Tool For Windows:
Having album cover art for your music library has many advantages. Besides the obvious aesthetic appeal, album covers that show up as thumbnail icons make is easier to find the right songs at the right time. If you are looking for a desktop application that lets you find free album covers of your favorite songs online, try Ashampoo MP3 Cover Finder. The application can instantly search and add covers to your songs from sources like Amazon, Google and iTunes. Speaking of iTunes, it also allows you to browse your iTunes library and insert missing covers with just a single click. The application sports a really gorgeous, minimal interface. Details to follow.


Ashampoo MP3 Cover Finder is in Beta, meaning the developers might still have to iron out some bugs before releasing the final version. You will need to activate the app via the beta code that you can get for free at the developer’s page. To get started, download the application using the link at the end of the post, click here and then enter your email in the proceeding webpage for requesting your license code.
Ashampo MP3 Cover Finder (BETA)
After receiving the verification email in your inbox, click the activation link to receive the license code. Copy the code from here.
Ashampoo® MP3 Cover Finder (BETA
Now run the setup file, paste the code in the appropriate field when asked and click ‘Activate now’. That’s it – your beta is now all active and running as it should.
Ashampoo MP3 Cover Finder Activate
The app itself sports a fairly straightforward interface that presents everything in a simple fashion, making it easily understandable for most users. When launched, it shows a semi-opaque dashboard that enables you to load your songs in five distinct ways: a single song file, all song files in any folder, all songs in your ‘my music’ folder, via drag and drop, or songs from iTunes library. Being an avid iTunes user, I naturally found the iTunes integration extremely useful. The drag and drop feature is also great for quickly selecting songs you want to update cover art for. All you have to do is open the folder where your music is stored, and then drag and drop the required file(s) over the app.
Ashampoo MP3 Cover Finder
The application automatically analyzes the tracks and searches for matched results from a multitude of sources. For instance, during testing I noticed it presented results from Amazon, Google, Discogs and iTunes. In addition, the application also enables you to choose between single and album covers for songs released as both singles and parts of albums. Once everything is set according to your preferences, click ‘Find Covers’ to start adding cover art to the songs you selected.
Ashampoo MP3 Cover Finder Found
To sum it up, Ashampoo MP3 Cover Finder is one of the best Windows apps for downloading album covers art for your music collection conveniently. It works on Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.
Download Ashampoo MP3 Cover Finder
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Easily Create & Conduct Dot Voting Polls Online With dotvoting.org

Easily Create & Conduct Dot Voting Polls Online With dotvoting.org:
We have all come across scenarios where we were asked to vote for or select our favorite item from a list, and we couldn’t decide which to choose because of having multiple favorites there. What if – in contrast to normal voting – each participant is given a fixed number of votes, and is able to freely assign them to to emphasize favor for one or more items according to their priority level? Dot Voting, of ‘dotmocracy’ fame, is a method used to do just that, by letting voters identify things of interest out of a set of topics. This concept now has a web service of its own that lets anyone conduct an online dot voting poll for free in a few easy steps. Participants don’t need to register for the service in order to cast their votes, and you can view and visualize the results any time during or after the poll.


The website has an appealing spartan layout, with distraction-free, to-the-point functionality. It is, in other words, the online version of a standard ballot box augmented with the concept of dot voting. You can set up your poll in a few simple steps, with no registration required!
Dotvoting website
The three ways you can interact with a Dot Voting is to start a new one, take part in one that’s already underway, or else view the results as voting progresses. Let’s first take a look at creating your own poll. Click ‘Set up or manage dot voting’. Here you can choose between beginning a new Dot Vote, or managing one or more Dot Votes you previously created by entering its code.
Creating a Dot Vote
You’ll need to go through a few steps when creating your Dot Voting, specifying what type of poll you want. It can be an open poll where you broadly distribute an access code and participation is open for anyone, or a restricted one where you predetermine which individuals can participate. You also get to decide whether the results will be public for anyone with the access code to see, or restricted and visible only to you till you decide to publish them.
A Dot Voting's basic properties
Before you’re ready to launch your poll, you need to fill in some basic information about yourself and the poll, and how long you want it to run. Next, enter at least two topics along with their brief descriptions, and define the number of dots (votes) available per participant. If you chose a restricted Dot Voting, you’ll need to enter a list of participants’ email addresses (up to 50). And…you’re done!
You’ll promptly receive a confirmation e-mail containing a link that you will need to click in order to activate this Dot Voting. This link is for you, the organizer, and it’s important to not share it with any participant. Once your Dot Voting has been activated, you’ll get a second e-mail with the public access token that can be forwarded to participants. If you selected a restricted vote, the web app will instead send individual e-mails with unique tokens to the participants automatically.
The participants will simply need to visit the Dot Voting website, click ‘Participate in a running dot voting’, enter the code, and get voting! In case of private polls, all they need to do is click the link they received in their mailbox to start voting.
Voting
After voting by assigning your available dots to the poll options any way you see fit, just click the green tick-mark that appears in order to save your results, which are then automatically submitted to the server. To view the results, the participants will need another access code, unless you’ve already restricted the results from being seen till you publish them first. You can also share the results over social media using the buttons available at the bottom.
Viewing results
The idea of dot voting is definitely a novel concept and can be useful to get more accurate poll results by letting participants weigh in on all the available options, rather than having to select just one. Also, comments on all Dot Votes are anonymous, providing a further insight on the feedback from the participants. Moreover, it’s not possible for an organizer to see which participant voted for what. So the next time you need to conduct a poll, give Dot Voting a shot by heading to the link provided below.
Visit Dot Voting
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Get A Tiled, Option-Stacked & Customizable Start Menu In Windows 8

Get A Tiled, Option-Stacked & Customizable Start Menu In Windows 8:
Whether you like it or not, the new Start Screen in Windows 8 is here to stay. But if you’re having a hard time getting used to it and prefer to get things done the old way such as accessing applications, shortcuts and files, you just need to install a Start Menu replacement app. We’ve already covered a handful of Start Menu apps and Start Screen modifiers for our readers, including the likes of Pokki, Classic Shell and Start8. Today, we’re bringing to you yet another similar application called Start Menu Reviver. It’s a great option for those avid Start Menu users who think that the Start Screen simply slows them down. It offers almost all the features of Start Screen and lets you access your programs and favorite websites right from the desktop.


So what makes it stand out from the rest of the crowd? That would be its elegant interface and a horde of features, I’d say. The first and foremost of these is its ability to let you create tiles for websites and apps. Start Menu Reviver features Start Screen-like tiles that let you open your apps and other items. It also carries a navigation bar to the left that provides quick access to user accounts, network and sharing center, recent apps, start search, tasks, run console, and of course, your apps.
Start Menu Reviver
The Settings button here comes handy for quickly opening different configuration areas of Windows such as Control Panel, Device Manager, Scheduled Tasks, Services, Action Center, Start Menu Settings, Windows Firewall and Updates, and more.
Settings
Let’s now take a detailed look at one of the most interesting bits of the app: adding tiles. The application allows you to add Start Screen-like tiles for programs, files and websites of your choice. For doing this, simple right click on the app and click Add Tile in the context menu. In the proceeding window, you can specify the tile name, shortcut (either file or application’s path, or URL), color and tile icon. There’s a whole variety of icons included in the app for popular apps like Photoshop, Firefox, Chrome, Google Earth, Picasa etc. Alternatively, you can also add a custom icon if you wish.
Create Tile
The app also allows you to open or search desktop and Modern UI apps without opening the Start Screen itself. You can conveniently access apps, files, folders and other items using the search box. When you hit the Apps button, the drop down menu at the top-right lets you specify the type of items you want to open, for instance Desktop apps, Metro apps, Documents etc. Likewise, you can also sort these items if required. There are also minuscule battery and clock buttons on the top-right, but they may be rather redundant considering this information is already visible in the Taskbar.
Start Menu Reviver_Apps
Users often complain about the unintuitive placement of power options in Windows 8. Start Menu Reviver takes care of this annoyance by giving you instant, convenient access to power options i.e. log off, switch user, lock, sleep, hibernate, restart and shutdown from a single power menu.
Start Menu Reviver_Power
To make application-specific changes, right-click the Start button and access the Settings window. Apart from making some generic changes like language, system startup behavior, and auto update, you can select between different Start button styles, disable the Dashboard tile (which basically gives access to the Start Screen) and customize further UI elements by changing the color scheme.
Start Menu Reviver_Settings
Start Menu Reviver is designed to work on Windows 8 only. Testing was carried out on Windows 8 Pro 64-bit.
Download Start Menu Reviver
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Detailed Look At The New Google+ With Card-Based UI, Hangouts, Awesome Photo Tweaks & More

A Detailed Look At The New Google+ With Card-Based UI, Hangouts, Awesome Photo Tweaks & More:
Yesterday at Google’s I/O conference, the tech giant announced its much anticipated Music subscription service, revamped Google Maps, and the redesigned Google+. For most of us, Google+ failed to replace Facebook and the many comparisons drawn between the two services failed to sway users in favor of Google’s offering. Soon after its debut last year, many of us had discounted it as another failed social network from the search giant. Google, on the other, has not conceded and has been making small improvements as well as significant new additions like Communities to the social network. The latest design is very Pinterest-like; the left bar can now be hidden, making it less of a screen hog. It’s also been cleaned up a bit and the ‘Explore’ option has been replaced with ‘What’s Hot’.
Google-Plus-new-card-based-improved-UI

Those who didn’t like the two-column Timeline view that Facebook introduced might not like the new Google+ layout, which is divided into not even two but three columns. Fortunately, you can return to viewing your updates in a single column. If you visit your profile page, you will notice, apart from the ginormous cover picture, that you now have two bars sticking to the top when you scroll down. Your ‘Home’ page also had a thinner bar that sticks to the top and makes it easier to switch between your different circles. Google has also made improvements that help you organize photos better. Your photos are now digitally enhanced when uploaded, recent photos are highlighted, and all photos taken from your mobile devices are backed up.

Home

When you sign in to Google+, you are greeted by the Home page and the new design is quite obvious, as is its similarity to Pinterest. The left bar auto-hides itself and will reappear when you move your mouse to the left side of your screen. Unlike before, GTalk will not load automatically in Google+; it’s been replaced with Google Hangouts and the button at the top-right will let you toggle the Hangouts sidebar’s visibility.
google plus home
The new layout is cleaner and it does away with the overbearing left sidebar, which wasn’t just unsightly but also made it difficult to view updates on a small screen. The column layout is nice to look at, but it isn’t ‘intelligent’ about making the best use of available space, and you will find that space is easily wasted between the Pinterest-like cards and the two bars on either side of your screen. At the very top, there are links to your different Circles. Switching to a Circle allows you to view feeds from that Circle only. If you aren’t happy with the two or three column layout, click the ‘more’ button and select the single column layout.

Activity Cards

Activity and updates appear in Pinterest-like cards. They’re clean and bring focus to hashtags used in the update. No functionality has been lost; you can still mute posts, link to them, or remove the user from your circle.
cards tag  cards menu

Improved Sidebar

The icons on the left sidebar are now much smaller and all comfortably fit in a single list; the ‘more’ button is no more (or Never More, if you’re a Poe fan). The ‘What’s Hot’ button has replaced the ‘Explore’ button, and you will notice that trending stories now appear in your feed as well. Perhaps it’s a preview of things to come, and Google+ might eventually roll out its own version of Promoted stories.
left side bar

Photos

Of the four new additions to Photos, ‘Auto Enhance’ and ‘Auto Highlight’ are possibly the best ones. When you upload photos, Google+ will automatically enhance them. At the top-left of the photo viewer, you now see an ‘Enhanced’ button. Click and hold it to view the original image, or click the ‘Revert’ link to restore the original image to your album.
photos enhance
Auto Backup (previously Instant Upload), as the name implies, will automatically backup all photos that you snap on your mobile devices. So long as the photos are 2048px (or less), you get store an unlimited number of them. For larger resolution photos, your Google Drive’s storage will be used, which amounts to 15GB for free accounts.
The Auto Highlight feature is meant to help you find photos faster. When you visit Photos, you will land on the Highlights tab. Here Google+ will display photos that it thinks are more relevant. The feature will keep on learning and improving, the more it is used. The point is to make it easier for you to find the right photos at the right time.
auto highlight
Lastly, there’s the Auto Awesome feature that will at times automatically create brand new images using the existing photos in your library. For instance, if it’s a sequence of photos you’ve snapped, this feature could automatically create an animation out of them, or stitch together multiple photos of people taken in the same setting into one group photo. All in all, this sounds pretty interesting, to say the least.

Hangouts

Google+ has launched standalone Hangout apps for iOS and Android, and an extension for Chrome. The idea is to bring Google+’s Hangouts feature to every major platform out there, letting users take their conversations with them across devices. You can learn more about that at our detailed hands-on review of Google Hangouts mobile apps and Chrome extension. Between the old and new hangouts, I am partial to the old one for the simple reason that it worked well for me. The new Hangouts has been buggy in my experience, to say the least, with connectivity problems with my Google Apps account. Unless this connectivity problem is resolved, many of us who depend on a Google Apps account will be without a means to chat within Google+.
Hangouts-Google-Plus

Conclusion

Unlike interface changes that Facebook makes, most of which I personally find unnecessary and occasionally confusing, the Google+ redesign feels pretty good! The old ‘Home’ view was never good; it dedicated too much screen space to show you who to follow, and the left sidebar with its grayed out icons was a bit too big. Add to this the chat bar, and you had a very messy and distracting interface that made it difficult to focus on your updates. All these issues have been addressed in the new interface, making it a very welcome update to the service.
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