WHO’S ANONYMOUS?

Many readers have written to rave about the search engine “DuckDuckGo,” because it promises privacy as you search the web. But we learned that it’s only partially private. DuckDuckGo itself doesn’t track your movements, but you can still be “seen” by the websites you visit, for marketing purposes. An alternative is Startpage.com. Search on anything and when the results come up, click “Anonymous View” next to the site you wish to visit. Your computer’s address will be masked. So will your location, your browser, operating system and personal information.  So … when you go on Facebook or Twitter, those sites can’t share your activities with the websites that advertise with them. We actually don’t mind advertisers collecting data on us, […]

Read more

CUTTING OFFICE TIES

A few readers have asked us what would happen if they stopped paying Microsoft $70 to $100 a year for Microsoft Office 365. Would there be a knock on the door late at night? Men in black suits? These are questions we have asked ourselves many times, usually just before breakfast. We ask no more. That’s because we switched back to Microsoft Word 2007, which is free, more manageable, and of course out of date. So the next question to be answered is this: Does it matter? In short, what do you use Microsoft Office for? Most people get Office 365, the $100 a year version, just to use Word. That’s their word processor. The other popular feature is Power […]

Read more

ALEXA, START MY DAY

The battle between Amazon’s “Echo” and Google Home never ends. Which is all good for us. The other day we turned to Google’s smart speaker and said “Hey Google, play ‘La Bamba.’” That launched a playlist with some of the best rock ‘n’ roll of all time. Joy could hardly stop dancing and return to the column. Alexa has her own new tricks. For instance, you can give her several commands at once without having to say “Alexa” each time. We said, “Alexa, turn the volume to 7.” A second later, we said “Call Bob,” and Bob’s cell phone started to ring.  We also plied it with questions. “Alexa, what’s the population of North Korea? What’s the population of South […]

Read more

WORTH FIVE BUCKS

Ever watch a video of an artist drawing? These quickly-drawn cartoons are used in ads and training videos. We got one for fun. It cost $5. Our interest began when a reader asked for our recommendation on “whiteboard animation software.” That would be software that creates cartoon videos. “PowToon” and many others are free, but we weren’t sure about the art part. That’s when we turned to artists on Fiverr. There are hundreds and most are super cheap. Fiverr.com is a marketplace for people who sell services in dozens of fields at surprisingly low prices. Wouldn’t it be fun, we thought, to have a video clip for our history club? We’re doing “history of fashion” and a plain PowerPoint presentation […]

Read more

A WORD TO THE FRUGAL

Topics this week: Free word processors and dictation, smart shopping, pinpointing your location, annoying ads.

Read more

CAPTURING VIDEO AND PICTURES

Both Windows and Mac come with free tools for capturing whatever you see on your screen and attaching it to an email or using it elsewhere. But if you need high resolution screenshots, or want to capture video, add voice over or turn it into a brief animation, the new Ashampoo Snap 9 is a handy Windows program for doing that. Basically anything you see on your computer screen can be captured in up to 4K resolution, which is quite sharp. Add special effects, or time the video capture for a precise start and stop, or even pause it. The program can also do “OCR” (optical character recognition). So if you want to capture a news article off the screen, […]

Read more

IT’S A MARSHMALLOW WORLD

Less than five percent of Android phone owners have the new “Marshmallow” operating system. A third have the previous version, Lollipop. the rest are so far back the operating systems were written on stone tablets.

Read more

TOM HANKS’ APP

“Hanx Writer” is a free app created by well-known actor Tom Hanks. It makes your iPad or iPhone keyboard sound like a manual typewriter. When you reach the end of a line and tap “return,” you hear that old familiar carriage-return sound, but no bell. (How come no bell, Tom?) Hanks says it helps with his own writer’s block, since he wrote some of his best stuff on a manual typewriter. The $3 to $5 pro versions offer different fonts and typewriter models. Standard typeface is “Courier,” like the old typewriters.

Read more

CONVERTING PDFS

A reader asked us to find a free program to convert a “PDF” (portable document format) into a Microsoft Word document. We like Nitro PDF.

Most people use Adobe Reader to open PDFs, which are documents that retain their original look (all the formatting and illustrations) no matter what program they were created with. To convert a PDF back into a Word document is usually done with a costly program like Adobe Acrobat. But we’ve had no problem with the free PDFtoWord.com, made by Nitro PDF.

Read more

WORD TIPS

Microsoft Word has lots of keyboard short cuts and here are some of the more useful:

Read more