Monday, January 23, 2012

Applications to Enhance Your OS - For advanced users. windows 7

With all the controversy about the security of the Windows operating system, at the end of the day it is one of the best and most stable OSes. Yes it is not perfect, however none of its competitors can't quite catch it. Nevertheless, using the same OS for a long time will lead to its becoming filled with bloatware (installed by you); in this case, the only option is to install a clean, new OS. Once you have that clean OS, what applications might you want to install? That is the subject of this article.
I should start by pointing out that this is the second part of my two-part series about this issue. The title of the first is "Windows 7: Great Additions" so make sure to read it. Second, I want to make clear again that this article relies solely on my own experiences, and you may have other opinions. If you do, you can express them in a friendly manner on the blog following this article.
To make this a little more browsable I have split my article up into subject areas. In the first article you could learn about document handling, image manipulation and file sharing applications. Now I will go over the music, video and some other useful applications to have installed on a fresh operating system. Let us jump in it!
Okay, I confess: I am dependent on music.  It has become a big part of my life. As soon as I start up my computer, most of the time the first application I start is the music player. In this area, I recognize that Microsoft managed to significantly improve its media player with Windows 7. Nevertheless, the enhancements are not enough to make me switch to it from Winamp.
Winamp pretty much grabbed its customers side by side with the spread of the MP3 file format as the standard for music files. I loved the old format with the classic view, as it was relatively simple and focused on your playlist. Then again, I also like the new Bento skin, as it has some good ideas and looks good with Windows 7. Luckily, I found a couple of additions that allow users to have both under the same system.
After you install Winamp, we need the cPro package. This Winamp plugin will let you use a cPro skin that extends many of the functions of the media player. I for one like the Braun atelier skin as bringing back something from the Winamp classic skin.
Now start up Winamp and hide the playlist, as we can have this in the tab too:

By right clicking on the tabs, you may set the application to auto-hide the ones you do not want to see. Do this with the ones you do not use. The BrowserPro tab hides multiple functions; however, I end up using the one for lyrics:

Besides this, you will need two more plugins. The first is Enhancer for a better quality sound output, and the second is the Winamp Essentials Pack for a general improvement in functionality. Once you have this up and running, you can instantly locate the currently-playing file (Ctrl+F), get many decoders to play all the music files (not just the MP3), auto play using the resume feature and more. Remember to set the enhancer as your output in the settings:

Another great addition is the winamp shell integration tool. The Win7shell will allow you to use the preview functionality of Windows 7 as a controller/quick access:

You can customize what it should show for a better user experience. Additional options here are foobar2000, MediaMonkey or AIMP.  In the end I usually end up with something like this:

If you want to keep an online library of what your are listening to and benefit from a free online database and charts for this, make sure to download the Last.FM scrobbler.
Video playing goes back to codecs. Most of the modern players have integrated video codecs, and Windows 7 itself has a couple of them integrated within it. However, just to be on the safe side and avoid any potential problems, you should install the Windows 7 Codec Pack. Once you've resolved this issue, you can go get the player itself.
I recommend two players: KMPlayer and SPlayer. I also like the Media Player Classic Home Cinema or VLC media player.

What I like about KMPlayer is its clean interface and high degree of configurability. As a bonus, you will also get a great album art view. This means some scrollable lists of thumbnails of videos, as you can see from the image below:

The player has multiple built-in codecs, and if you installed the codec pack indicated earlier, I can guarantee that you will not come across any file type that you cannot handle.
What do I mean by a clean interface? You will see absolutely nothing but the video itself while you are playing it. Thus, once you are watching a video you can focus on the video. Moreover, if you are doing something else at the same time, not a single extra pixel will be taken over by the player other than those it must have. The following image is not a full screen screen shoot.

The control commands will appear automatically if you put your mouse at the bottom or top of the screen. It's simple and functional:

For those that want to mess around with the advanced configurations, that too is an option, with a right click anywhere inside the player window:

The always-on-top-while-playing option, too, is nice to have. If you are  interested in some information about the video you are playing or how much CPU you are using, then just push the TAB button to toggle to real time information about this:

Need to take a quick break? Push the ESC button and the player will pause and minimize itself to the system tray. These are the main reasons I like and use KMPlayer.

Now what about SPlayer? Well, SPlayer is there for those who are interested in playing HD videos that require a crazy amount of CPU and have a GPU standing there and doing nothing. Luckily there are out a couple of tools that can put your CUDA-compatible NVidia video card to work.

Nevertheless, even after integration it does not works as well as the one built into the Splayer. Do you want to watch one of those 1080i, 1080p videos and your CPU is struggling to decode it? This is the player for which you are looking. For example, I am watching a 216 MB large 3:30 length 1080p resolution video file, and the CPU is never jumping above eight percent as far as usage.

You may use it as a primary player, too; however, due to the lack of the features I enumerated when talking about the first player I mentioned, for regular usage I prefer the KMPlayer.
The following applications I will present are too general to fit in any category.  Primarily I need a good calendar and planning software. Functionality is again my most important goal. A good desktop calendar pick is Rainlander. It takes only a little space on the desktop, and its interface is elegant enough to look good paired with Windows 7. Rainlander has multiple skins; however, the default one looks the best in my opinion:

Double clicking on any day on the calendar lets you set new events or to-do items. Both of these will have their own windows that you can place anywhere on the desktop to remind you what events are coming up or what you need to finish.

If you used to use another program to do your calendar (like Google Calendar or Outlook) it is possible to subscribe to this and edit them via Rainlander, as it uses the standard iCalendar format. Although these sharing additions are only available in the Pro version, it is good to have support for them.

Another must-have tool in my opinion is Daemon Tools Lite. Use this whenever you have an image on your computer and you want to open it. You can also extract these on your hardware using the 7-ZIP application I presented in my earlier article. After installation, you will have an icon for Daemon Tools in your tray. Right click on it to bring up the menu:

From the virtual devices menu you can easily select to which virtual device you want to mount the image.
For those of you who want a better task manager to watch over processes, I recommend that you install ProcessExplorer. Download it and put the single executable file you have in a folder. I like to create a new folder in the Program Files folder for it. Once you have installed it, you can set it to replace the default task manager present in Windows:

What I like about this compared to basic one is that you can see the resource usage of the system services, too. There are some applications or virus programs that install themselves as services. However, the classic task manager hides this from the user.
Therefore, sometimes your computer may get really slow, the CPU usage may jump to the sky -- but the classic task manager cannot show you which one is the guilty process. That's no longer true with Process Explorer. Another great thing is that you can view the resource usage of a given application instantly by double clicking its process:

To view the process usage of the whole system, just double click on the small graphs you can find in the upper section of the process explorer:

This is a great tool to have if you want to discover those resource hogging applications.
Besides this, if you want to find out some technical details about your system, you should probably install Lavalys Everest.  If you have a Sony Ericsson phone and you hate the bundled software you use to synchronize/transfer your data from the phone to your computer, then check out MyPhoneExplorer.
This pretty much sums up all the software I tend to install on a clean OS. The idea is to keep things simple (yet functional) and use freeware to fulfill your needs as much as possible. These work quite well for me. Only after this do I go on to more task-oriented software, like Microsoft Visual Studio, Matlab, Mathematica, games and so forth.
I hope you found some interesting software while reading these two articles. If you know some other applications that you consider crucial, please share them on the blog following the article. I would like you to also point out what you like about them (not just enumerate them) to keep this as informational as possible.
I ask that you rate my article, too, if you found it useful. Thanks for joining me, and if you are one of those who like to have a clean OS and file system all the time, make sure to come back for my next article, where I will be presenting a couple of applications to accomplish this goal. Live with passion!
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Portable KeePass Tutorial for Ubuntu Linux and Windows Dual-Boot

Keeping track of a lot of passwords can be a pain, especially if you run a dual-boot system. Fortunately, there's a way to simplify this situation by using KeePass, an open source password management application. Keep reading to learn how it can help make you more productive by keeping your passwords safe and ready when you need them, even in a dual-boot environment.
Here is a situation: Your computer runs a dual boot operating system in Windows and Linux/Ubuntu. You actively use both operating systems. Maybe if you are a developer, you use Windows for developing ASP.NET websites and Ubuntu for PHP web development.
Or maybe you're just a normal person who happens to love both operating systems. You may be using Linux to provide much more security against common online malware, and you use Windows when you are playing games.
In either of these situations, you will frequently create, save and use a password to log in to your favorite websites, and for other purposes. KeePass is a wonderful open source password management solution, and is compatible with both Windows and Linux.
For best efficiency and productivity, you will use only one KeePass password database, that can be used by both Windows and Linux. There is no need for you to create another KeePass password database under the Ubuntu environment.
The advantage of having a "centralized" KeePass password database is increased work efficiency and productivity. You will not need to worry about whether you have updated your KeePass under the Windows environment, because the changes will also be available automatically in Ubuntu.
This "centralized" approach to password management looks like this, as compared to the inefficient approach (using two KeePass password databases):

The good thing about Keepass is that:
  • It encrypts the username and password in both file systems (Windows and Linux). This means that any malicious program that attempts to read your hard drive and harvest passwords will have a hard time if you keep your passwords in KeePass.
  • The database where all the login details are saved is protected with a master password.
  • For best security against key loggers, you need to use key files in addition to passwords. This means that, even if unauthorized persons get a hold of your password, they still need to identify the key file you used to successfully log in to your KeePass database.
  • It is free and portable. You will never need to install it into your operating systems. This makes it very easy to transport to other places, such as a flash drive or external hard drive, if you need to.
Getting Started with KeePass Password Management
The most recommended KeePass version for Ubuntu/Windows dual boot is the classic edition of KeePass (version 1.18 as of the time of this writing). You can download it here:
Version 2.x of KeePass requires Mono to work in Linux; that might be a little technical for beginners to deal with.
1. Under "Classic Edition," click "Portable KeePass 1.18 (ZIP Package)" to download it to your computer.
2. Once downloaded, right click on the zip package and click "Extract to KeePass-1.18."
3. Go inside the KeePass-1.18 folder and copy KeePass.exe to your Windows Desktop. You can delete the folder after copying.
4. You can give KeePass.exe a different name, for example "stargate.exe." But this is optional.
5. Double click KeePass.exe, which is now located in your Windows Desktop. You should see a blank window, like this:

5. You need to create a new database to store your usernames and passwords. Go to File -> New. You will be shown the "Create New Password Database."
  • Enter "Master password," and type a password you can easily remember.
  • Select "Key file:" Click the floppy disk icon to select any of your personal files as your key file. This can be images in jpg, mp3 file, bmp format or any file saved on your computer. Select only one. Make sure you will never delete this, and make a backup along with your KeePass database. Click "save" after you have selected a single file.
  • Finally, click OK to finish creating the composite master key.
  • You will be required to re-enter the master password.
6. After creating the database, you can start adding your own username/password entries to your KeePass. To do this, go to "Edit" -> "Add Entry." In the Add Entry dialog box, enter as much detail as you can provide.

7. If you have a list of your usernames and passwords in a text file, you can open it and transfer it to Keepass one at a time. To clear the password field, click on the password text box field and press Shift -> End in your keyboard. Then click OK to save this entry. You can repeat this process until all of your passwords are saved in Keepass.
8. Finally, after saving all passwords, you also need to save the KeePass database. To do this, go to File -> Save.
9. You can also import your existing username/password data from other password management solutions. You can do this from File -> Import from, and then select any of the choices that you are currently using, which you plan to import to Keepass.
At this stage, you have successfully transferred all of your username/password credentials to KeePass in Windows. You can delete all of your password/username copies that are unencrypted. You can also change all of your passwords when they are already copied to KeePass, to avoid any chance of someone compromising the old password in an unencrypted environment.
Since you are using an Ubuntu-Windows dual boot setup, restart your computer and then boot to Ubuntu. Then follow the steps below.
1. You need Wine installed in your Ubuntu environment. If you do not have Wine, you can install by going to Applications -> Ubuntu Software Center, and typing Wine in the search box.
You should see the result "Wine Microsoft Windows Compatibility Layer." Double click on it. Proceed to install until the installation process is completed. You will know it is completely installed if you will see the "remove" button. Screen shot:

2. The next thing you should do is mount your Windows hard drive containing Keepass. To do this, go to Places and select the hard drive corresponding to the Windows C drive. Example:

The above screen shot shows that the 84 GB Filesystem is the Windows C drive, and the 76 GB filesystem is the Windows E drive. Click the drive, and then Ubuntu will ask you to enter your Linux password.
3. Once the drive has been successfully mounted, you can access your Windows data. Navigate to your Windows Desktop, until you can find Keepass.exe.
4. Right click on that, and then click "Open with Wine Windows Program Loader." You will then see  Keepass asking you to enter your master password and key file. Of course, the key file is saved on the Windows hard drive, so you need to locate it as well. Enter the same credentials as you use in Windows.

Important Implementation Notes
1. Always make a backup of your Keepass database and key files. Put it in a separate storage space, not connected to your computer. You need this because, even though your password credentials are protected with encryption, if someone accidentally deleted your database/key files, without that backup you will never be able to retrieve it.
A regular backup is highly important.
2. Below are the operating systems and versions of software used in this tutorial that work. It might work with other versions, so you'd better check the KeePass documentation for details. 
  • Windows: Windows XP SP3 (fully updated)
  • Linux: Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala (fully updated)
  • Wine:  Wine 1.0.1
  • KeePass: Classic Edition/version 1.18
3. For best practices, you can use:
  • The drag and drop method of copying your username and password from Keepass to a website login form (the Yahoo login, for example).
  • Alternatively, you can set a very short clipboard clear time. The default is 10 seconds, so you can change it to three seconds, for example, in Tools -> Options -> Memory. Then set a new "Clipboard auto-clear time (seconds)."
  • A much better and more secure solution is to enable "Enhanced: allow pasting only once and protect against clipboard spies."
The simpler your KeePass implementation, the better.
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tools u can use

Do you find yourself using email less because it's become so difficult to find the important messages amid all the chaff? Do you wish there was a way to make email from multiple accounts more organized, or at least more appealing? EmailTray just might be what you're looking for.
Although email definitely has excellent value as a method of communication, it appears to be losing some steam in terms of popularity. Market research company comScore documented this trend with some statistics revealed in an article by the New York Times website. According to comScore's findings, the number of unique visitors to popular mail service sites such as Hotmail, Yahoo, and others has declined since November of 2009. The biggest decline in email usage occurred among the teenage (12 to 17 year old) demographic. 
What is behind this drop in email's popularity? The competition of and proliferation of text messaging and quick chats certainly has a hand in the decline, among other causes. With other methods of communication threatening email's market share, providers of email programs are forced to step up their efforts to make it more appealing to consumers. This means added features and functionality. One such program that was created to make email easier is EmailTray.
EmailTray was developed by Web CEO and is described as “your personal email concierge.” In essence, the program helps notify you when your most important emails arrive. Rather than interrupting you with constant email notifications when trivial messages come through, EmailTray prioritizes email from different senders to help keep all of your messages organized.
Rather than handling just one account at a time, EmailTray allows users to integrate different accounts into the program, making it a one-stop shop for messaging. The program supports POP3, IMAP, and Webmail accounts, allowing you to monitor mail messages from providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and more. To be notified of new messages, you do not have to leave your email clients open. The clients can be closed, and you will still receive notifications from EmailTray. As something important comes into your inbox, you will see a popup and hear a sound effect to keep you informed of what just came in.
As stated, perhaps the main value offered by EmailTray is its prioritization capabilities. When you set up the program, it will analyze your email accounts to index all of your messages. It then creates a network of trusted senders and automatically prioritizes future incoming mail into various categories.
The categories of Top Priority, Low Priority, No Priority, and Spam create a hierarchy of importance among your incoming mail across various accounts. This is especially helpful for users that manage several accounts at the same time and have little time to do so. In addition, EmailTray has a safety net to prevent you from losing important messages in the Spam box, as it will scan your Spam box to find any emails erroneously dumped there.
EmailTray also offers privacy protection. Any account passwords remain on your computer, so you won't have to worry about them getting onto the programs servers. The same holds true for any subject lines or text from your messages.
Besides the listed features, EmailTray offers much more to users looking for a new email management program.  Best of all, it's free.
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Setting up Google Apps for Your Domain

As the title suggests, this article will teach you how to set up Google Apps for Business on your domain.
Hundreds of millions of people use Google products and services every day. Chances are, you probably found this article through a Google search; or even better, you may have even seen this in Developer Shed’s Weekly Newsletter, which you read from your Gmail account. One thing is for sure, though--you probably use Google services at least once per day. Whether you are searching the web, checking your email, researching stock prices, or watching online videos, Google has the products to keep information, entertainment, and productivity at your fingertips.

One Google product you may not have heard of yet is Google Apps for Business, or simply Google Apps. This product packages many Google services--including Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Chat, Sites, Groups, and Contacts--into a single, collaborative service which can be used to easily manage users, communication, and collaboration at an affordable, low yearly price. In fact, depending on your needs, you may even be able to use it for free.

At a minimum, you will have access to the following core Google services:

   1. Messaging applications: Gmail (7 GB inbox), Google Talk, Google Calendar
   2. Collaboration applications: Google Docs (1 GB of storage), Google Sites
   3. Additional Google applications: YouTube, Blogger, Reader, Picasa Web Albums, etc.
   4. Mobile access: Android, Blackberry, iPhone and Windows Mobile phones

Paying Google Apps customers will have access to the following extra features:

   1. Additional business application: Google Video (mini YouTube), Google Groups, Postini (spam filtering, message archival)
   2. Additional features: 25 GB Gmail inbox, Outlook and Blackberry connectors
   3. Administrator controls: Single-Sign-On, SSL, password strength, and more
   4. Support and reliability: guaranteed 99.9% uptime, 24/7 phone support

So what exactly is Google Apps? It is Google’s online collaboration suite designed to compete with larger enterprise players such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, but it does so by offering an exceptional service at a low price. With Google Apps, you are no longer at the mercy of your address--you can use it with your own domain! This functionality allows businesses and organizations to use their own domains with the Gmail service. So if you own, you can now use your email address,, with Gmail. You no longer need to set up complicated forwarding rules or use the outdated IMAP protocol--you get the full power of Gmail (and the other services) with your own domain. And since Google Apps was designed for business users, you get a full back-end for managing your users, services, and other organization-specific functionality.

Google Apps is available in four different versions:

   1. Standard Google Apps, which is free.
   2. Google Apps for Education, which is free for all educational institutions and 501(C)(3) non-profits.
   3. Google Apps for Business, which is $50 per user, per year.
   4. Google Apps for Government, which is $50 per user, per year, and is certified by the U.S. government.

Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government are essentially the same product with the same features, except educational and non-profit institutions are free. Google Apps Standard includes the core Google productivity services, but lacks the additional space, reporting, and back-end management provided by the Business edition. You can find a full comparison of features among all editions here.

In this tutorial, we will be setting up a free Google Apps account. The setup process is very easy and straightforward, and with any luck, you should be up and running in about an hour. Before you begin, you will need to make sure you have access to a domain (it can be a sub domain if you do not want to disrupt your current mail flow), and you will also need the ability to edit the domain’s current DNS records. If you do not know what DNS records are, then this tutorial may be too complicated for you. If you make the wrong change, you can severely inhibit your domain’s visibility on the Internet.
Signing up for Google Apps

To begin the setup process, visit From the top menu, go to Solutions -> Google Apps (Free), then click the blue Get Started button.

Next, you will be asked to enter your domain. This can be a root domain ( or a sub domain ( Once you have entered the desired domain name, click the Get Started button.

Next, you will need to enter some information about yourself and/or your organization. Remember, you can use the standard Google Apps for free even if you are using it for business purposes. After you have entered the required information, click the Continue button.

After you have entered the required information, you will now set up your first administrator account. After entering the appropriate information, agree to the TOS, then click the I Accept Continue with Set Up button.

After your information has been processed successfully, you will be redirected to your Google Apps administrator control panel. Enter the administrator username and password you created earlier, then click the Sign in button.

After you have logged in, Google will prompt you with some information regarding Google Apps accounts and standard Google Accounts. Prior to 2010, Google had two types of accounts: Google Accounts and Google Apps accounts. The problem with this setup was that it allowed users to have two completely separate accounts, but still use the same email address. And since these accounts were separate, you were unable to share any data between the two, like Gmail contacts. Google solved this problem by merging Google Apps accounts into Google Accounts, thus streamlining data sharing among all Google services.

But enough with this history lesson; let’s get back to setting up our domain! Click the I accept Continue to My Account button to continue setting up your account.

Before you can start using Google Apps, Google will require you to verify ownership of your domain. This can be done a number of ways:

   1. Modify the domain’s DNS settings.
   2. Modify the HTML of a web page on the domain.
   3. Upload an HTML file to the web server.
   4. Link to a Google Analytics account.

While it is possible to skip this process and start it at a later time, I find it easier to do this part now instead of forgetting about it later. Click the Continue button to start the verification process.

Next, you will select the verification method Google will use to verify the domain. I find the third option -- Upload an HTML file to your server -- to be the easiest and quickest option, because once the file is uploaded, Google will find it instantly. If you select the Add a DNS record to your domain’s configuration option, it may take anywhere from several minutes to several hours for the verification process to complete, because the DNS changes must propagate through tens of thousands of DNS servers, which of course takes time.

In this tutorial, I am going to select the third option -- Upload an HTML file to your server -- to verify my domain ownership. You can select another method if you wish; the end result will be the same. After selecting this option, you will need to perform the following tasks:

   1. Download the verification file (You will find this in the blue box).
   2. Upload this file to the root of your domain, eg,
   3. Visit the link to confirm the file is uploaded.
   4. Click the Verify button.

Once you have double-checked everything, click the Verify button to continue.

Once Google successfully verifies your domain, you will be redirected to your Google Apps control panel, specifically the Dashboard page.

Activating Email

Before you start exploring the administrative interface, we are going to finish the setup process by activating Gmail. To do this, scroll down towards the bottom of the Dashboard page, then click Activate email under the Email heading.

Now you will begin the email configuration process. Google makes this step very easy by providing you with specific instructions based on your domain registrar. For example, if you are with DreamHost (as in this example), it shows you the exact steps to follow according to each registrar’s control panel. Not every domain registrar is listed, but the most popular ones are. Because this step varies so widely from one registrar to the next, it is impossible to describe the exact steps you will need to follow to make the necessary changes. However, I will list the basic steps to completing this task.

   1. Log in to your domain registrar’s control panel.
   2. Find a listing for all of your domains.
   3. Find the domain you used in this tutorial, then look for an option to edit the domain’s settings.
   4. Look for MX (email) records. You will need to update the current MX records for the domain (they are probably set for your web host’s mail servers).
   5. Enter ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM as your new MX record. If you have the option to set a priority, just enter 10.
   6. Save the changes.

Once you have updated your domain’s MX records, click the I have completed these steps button to finish the process.

Google will now verify your updated MX settings for your domain. This process can take up to 48 hours, so you must be patient. You can find the status of this process by viewing the Email heading on the Dashboard. You will not be able to send or receive any emails until this process completes.

When the email activation process completes, the gray “Updating” message will disappear.


In the past few minutes (I told you this would be quick), you were able to successfully sign up for Google Apps, setup your domain, verify your domain, and activate the Gmail service. You have just completed all the steps necessary to have a fully functioning Google Apps suite for personal or business use.

In my next article, I will show you the inner workings of Google Apps, which will include a brief overview of your domain’s global settings, a list of best practices, an overview of your support options, and an introduction to the Google Apps Marketplace so you can extend the functionality of Google Apps one step further.
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Administering Google Apps for Your Domain

In my previous article, Setting up Google Apps for Your Domain, I introduced you to one of Google’s flagship services, Google Apps. Google Apps bundles a number of Google’s well-known collaborative services (Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Chat) into one easily manageable package. You learned how to create your first Google Apps domain, verify your domain, and activate your email. Now that all the necessary services are activated, I will show you how to administer your Google Apps domain.
Before I can show you how to manage your Google Apps domain, you need to login to the control panel first. You can login to it two different ways:
1. Go to and login with the username you created. Make sure you include your domain when entering your username ( Once you have successfully logged in, click the Manage this domain link on the top-right section of the screen.

2. Go to

You will only be required to enter your username (not your entire email address) because Google captures this information from the control panel URL.

Once logged in to the control panel, you will be first directed to the Dashboard. Here is a quick reakdown of all the available elements on the dashboard:
  1. Quick links to access your Google Apps services for Gmail, Calendar, support, and to sign out.
  2. This is the control panel’s main menu. You will be able to administer all of the enabled Google services as well as various user and security settings.
  3. This is a simple chart that displays your domains current log on activity.
  4. This provides quick and easy access to the Google Apps Marketplace where you can install third-party applications which integrate with your Google Apps account.
  5. This section provides quick access to all of your enabled Google services. Status messages will appear next to the application names during certain administrative tasks.
Now you will explore the rest of the control panel starting with Organization and Users.
Organization & Users
While Google Apps can be used with a single, stand-alone user, it is primarily designed to manage users and groups of users. To begin managing users, click the Organization & users link on the main menu.

From here, you can manage three levels of user access and functionality.
  1. Organizations (Business, Government, and Education editions only).
  2. Users
  3. Services
Organizations: Google Apps allows you to designate users into specific groups. From here, you can control which services the user will be able to access (Gmail, Calendar, Chat, YouTube, etc.). This grouping does not necessarily have to mimic your current organization’s structure. You could create groups for receptionists, accountants, sales, etc., or you could simply create groups for power users, email-only, documents-only, etc. There is no right or wrong way to setup the organizational structure of your users.
Users: If you want to add more people to your Google Apps account, you will create them as users. These users will use the same domain name for their email addresses. You can also control which services individual users will have access to without having to create an organization. Keep in mind when using the free version of Google Apps, you will be limited to 50 users. If you want more users, you will need to upgrade to the Business edition of Google Apps.
Services: Google Apps bundles its core set of collaborative applications (Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Chat, etc.) with the entire array of Google services (Picasa, YouTube, Blogger, AdSense, Maps, etc.). You can enable or disable specific services for your domain, and these selections will affect all users in your domain. In other words, disabling Google Calendar will disable it from every user in your domain, even if you specifically allowed it for specific users.

TIP: Even though you have the ability to control the services your users have access to, it does not prevent them from using the service with their personal Google Account. Exploring the Groups Section of the Control Panel
In the previous section you learned about organizations within your Google Apps domain. You can also create groups of users, but these groups differ from the organizations you can create. Groups in Google Apps are used to make communication and collaboration with other users easier. To begin, click the Groups link on the main menu.

Groups serve a number of useful purposes. Whenever you create a group, its name becomes an email address: You can use this email address to send emails to group members, invite group members to calendar events, or set permissions on documents, presentations, or spreadsheets. You can even add non-domain users to groups, like users who have a Gmail or Yahoo email address. If you upgrade to the Business edition of Google Apps, you will get access to the Google Groups service, which includes additional features and security options for group members.
Domain Settings Section of the Control Panel
Domain Settings
The Domain settings portion of the control panel allows you to set options which affect your entire domain. These are back-end settings to domain-specific settings such as time zone, organization name, default language, etc. This section does not control access to the different Google services (You will need to visit Organization & users to make these changes). To begin, click the Domain settings link on the main menu.

The Domain settings portion of the control panel is broken down into five subsections:
  1. General
  2. Account information
  3. Domain names
  4. User settings
  5. Appearance
General: In the General subsection, you can set your organization name, update contact information (including secondary contact information in the event of an emergency), set a default language, set the time zone, determine how fast you want access to new Google features, and update Google feedback information (newsletters, surveys, etc.).
Account information: When using the free version of Google Apps, the Account information subsection is relatively empty. You only have two options: to upgrade to the Business edition of Google Apps, or to delete your Google Apps account. Paid users have the ability to update their renewal information, purchase more users, and view their order history.
Domain names: Even with the free edition of Google Apps, you are not limited to just one domain. Here, you can add domain aliases so users can share the same Gmail inbox with multiple email addresses. For example, if you are currently using and you want to add, your users will be able to receive email from both domains: = Paid users have the ability to manage aliases as well as manage multiple domains. This way you can manage multiple organizations (and domains) in the same account.
User settings: The User settings subjection allows you to control how data is shared between your users. When using the free version, your only option is to enable or disable contact sharing. This features allows you to push contact information for every user to the Gmail Contacts module. This way whenever a user wants to send an email to another user in the domain, the recipient’s name does not need to be stored in the sender’s Contacts because the name and email address will auto-populate when the sender begins typing the recipient’s name or email address. Paid users have the ability to sync users with LDAP or Active Directory services, therefore easing the stresses of managing a large amount of users.
Appearance: Unlike regular Gmail users, Google Apps users have the ability to change the logo that appears at the top-left of every Google application. The only requirements are it must be in PNG or GIF format, and it must be scaled to 143 x 59 pixels. This gives you the ability to “brand” your email for your users or your organization.
Advanced Tools
The Advanced tools section of the control panel allows you to control and manipulate user accounts and data on an advanced level. To begin, click the Advanced tools link on the main menu.

The free version of Google Apps features a very limited set of advanced tools. These tools include the ability to bulk upload users from CSV, import email from legacy systems (old systems--this does not support IMAP or POP3), and setup DKIM email authentication (allows users to verify the sender of an email). Google also includes a desktop mail import tool designed to import mail from Microsoft Outlook (and other email clients) into your Gmail account. Google also bundles a special version of Chrome designed to work with your domain from the start, easily allowing you to use Gmail, Calendar, and Docs as though they were installed on your local computer. Paid users get access to a much larger advanced tool set, including the ability to sync users with Active Directory or LDAP services, generate reports, restrict email delivery to organizations, and the ability to setup a single sign-on (SSO) service to integrate with enterprise applications.
Exploring the Support Section of Google Apps
The Support section of the control panel lists your basic support options for your free Google Apps account. Keep in mind since you are using the free version of Google Apps, your support options will be limited. To begin, click the Support link on the main menu.

When you visit the Support section of the control panel, Google lists several support options. One of the best resources is the community support forum. It features a very active community, and you should be able to get your questions answered very quickly. Google employees also visit the forum to comment on certain problems, especially when they affect many users. If you need help fast, and do not want to wait for your question or problem to be answered in the community forum, Google also lists third-party solutions who can provide technical support with Google Apps.
Google also lists two online resources for help: The Admin Help Center, and the End User Help Centers. These two resources are full of information, and most of the content is written in a manner that regular, non-tech-savvy users will be able to comprehend. In order to take full advantage of everything Google Apps has to offer, I strongly recommend browsing some of the topics in the Admin Help Center.
Exploring the Service Settings Section of Google Apps
Service Settings
The Service settings section of Google Apps is probably one of the most important sections of the control panel. Here, you can control individual settings for Google’s core services, including: Gmail, Chat, Calendar, Docs, Sites, Contacts, and Mobile. To begin, click the Service settings link on the main menu, then click the service you wish to modify.

Email: Some common settings you can change in the Gmail service include changing the name format (First Last vs Last, First), creating a catch-all address for email delivered to a non-existing user, enable mail delegation, and disabling the service all together.
Chat: Some common settings you can change for the Chat service including setting chat security (displaying a user’s chat status to non-domain users; warn users who chat with non-domain users), forcing chat history to be “Off the Record” so no chats are saved, and disabling the service all together.
Calendar: The Calendar service only allows you to configure two settings, including setting the sharing options for users inside and outside of the domain, and disabling the service all together.
Docs: Just like the Calendar service, the Docs service is limited to two options as well. These options include setting document sharing options for users inside and outside of the domain as well as disabling the service all together.
Sites: Some common settings you can change in the Sites service include changing the sharing options for sites (including visibility to the public; this way Sites can act more like an intranet), mapping the web address to your own domain (so becomes, and disabling the service all together.
Contacts: The only setting in the Contacts service is the ability to disable the service all together.
Mobile: The only setting in the Mobile service is the ability to enable or disable the Google Sync service. The Google Sync service allows certain mobile phones to sync mail, calendars, and contacts using Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync.
In this article, you learned the basics of administering the free edition of Google Apps. You learned how to create users and groups, adjust domain-specific settings, import email from local email clients like Microsoft Outlook, get support for common problems, and how to adjust specific settings for each of the Google Apps core services. I hope you enjoyed these tutorials on configuring your domain to take advantage of the free edition of Google Apps!
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Top Free Photo Editor software.. choose the best

This software highlight takes a look at some of the top free photo editors.
Since the advent of the smartphone put a camera at everyone’s fingertip, the world of photo manipulation has taken a quantum leap. Almost overnight, people went from the occasional shutterbug to documenting nearly every aspect of their daily lives. That combined with the ubiquitous and instant gratification of social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, the world was also given a forum to display and showcase their photos.  It was only the natural progression of things that people would begin to explore many different ways to play around with those photos.
Once upon a time, not too long ago in fact, exploring those options were a privilege of those in possession of such photo manipulation software like the mighty Photoshop. Nowadays that’s simply not the case; there is a plethora of apps and programs available to the public, both paid and free. How do you thin the herd you may ask? Well look no further; I am about give you a quick rundown of some of the better free photo-processing apps available for both iPhone and iPads.

First up on the list is a clever little for the iPhone and iPad, called Pixlr-o-matic. A user-friendly yet surprisingly multi-functional app that allows you such effects like faded and warm film filters to light leaks, sparkles, and rainbows. Once you launch the program, you’ll be given the option to take a snapshot with your camera or upload a photo of your own from your computer. Once you have done this then you’ll be able to apply a filter, add an effect, and a frame; and then save or share the photo. I would also like to let it be known that Pixlr-o-matic does not have the option share photos on Twitter and the filters are one-shot and unadjustable, so what you see is what you get.
The interface is set-up as a ruler with five buttons from left to right; return to home screen, film filters, lighting effects, frames, and save/share. The options are broken down into three basic categories; filters, lighting effects and frames. There are 25 film filters, 30 lighting effects, and 31 frames to choose from, however you can only apply one type of filter or effect at a time but you do see the changes to your photo changes almost instantly. The main drawbacks to this app are as follows; you’re occasionally prevented from sharing large or medium-size files and there’s no crop feature. Aside from that Pixlr-o-matic's, is a fun and simple app with numerous effects available.
Adobe Photoshop Express
Adobe and Macintosh. In a partnership that goes as well together as PB&J; it’s not hard imagine that Adobe would eventually put out an image editor for the iPhone and iPad that would set a standard among an already impressive array of photo editing apps. The Adobe Photoshop Express is the Robin to the CS Photoshop’s Batman. Meaning that it can do a bunch of cool stuff but as one might guess, it’s not as beefy or skilled as the desktop version. However it is easy, fast and furious with what it can do and above all its free! 

Images can be cropped, rotated, or flipped. Users can also change the exposure, saturation, tint, or convert a color picture to black and white; turn a photo into a sketch or soften the focus; and add effects, such as Vibrant, Vignette Blur, Rainbow, Border, Warm Vintage, White Glow or Black and White.  The touch screen interfaces bring new meaning to ‘tip of your fingers’ allowing you to adjust the strength of the edits by how far across the screen you swipe. Most edits are achieved in either portrait or landscape mode.
The interface is simple enough to master the first time you use the app. You’ll have your choice of these toolbar options; Crop / Brightness / Filters / Effects. One distinct departure from other versions of Photoshop is that if ever you change your mind about an edit you can always cancel or undo it, because the edited version of your image is always saved separately from the original, so the process is natively non-destructive. So while it may not have the bang of its older siblings, Photoshop Express has just the right amount of goodies to give your images that on-the-go pizzazz.
First and foremost, do not be thrown off by the name which stands for (GNU Image Manipulation Program), GNU refers to the type of licence, being free.). It does most of the things that the other programs do, and at a professional quality. A few of the more sophisticated techniques may not be present, but lest we forget all the apps are free and considering the axiom, that you get what you pay for, GIMP boasts some impressive functionality. So forgive the oddly misleading appellation, it is quite a versatile program.

Of all the photo editing apps I reviewed, GIMP is actually the one that was the most comprehensive in terms of utility. Unlike Photoshop Express which is essentially just a stripped down version of Photoshop Creative Suite, GIMP offers everything from a simple paint program, a photo retouching program, an image renderer, or an image format converter. GIMP even supports layered designs that you can build from scratch, gradients and a bevy of other incredible functions. The primary drawback, I encountered was the interface which has different architecture than other commercial level software packages and can take some getting used whether you’re an industry professional or not.
Photo editing apps that provide full high-caliber professional functionality are rapidly becoming the norm nowadays. Giving users the best that commercial software can provide while not having to pay a dime for them. Many of which give us constant improvements and updates in addition to that.  So while some of you out there may find Adobe Photoshop Express much easier to use and not to mention learn.  Do not be so quick to dismiss GIMP, which is quite a good alternative to Photoshop in its own right.

Fotoflexer is far from its self-proclaimed ‘world’s most advanced online image editor’ but it certainly gets an ‘A’ for effort. What this dandy app lacks in overall slick professional aesthetics it more than makes up in fun and quick no-brainer effects. Whereas, some image editors have a severe learning curve, most users could walk through the interface on Fotoflexer with their eyes closed. Users can dabble in everything from the usual blemish fixing and effects such as watercolors and sepia tones to more fun things such as adding shapes to your photos, doodling on them and using various fonts in several colors to brighten your photo.

You can even distort photos, warping them to create various hilarious effects.
More than anything, my only bone of contention with FotoFlexer is that it maybe tries a little too hard to be everything to everyone. Those of you out there looking for a lean and mean program with a straightforward interface, may want to bypass this app all-together. FotoFlexer has a bit more of the ‘kitchen sink’ approach to its photo editing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some advanced tools on par with desktop class photo editing software but the app’s strength focuses mainly on one-click tweaks and like many other online editing programs, it integrates directly with major services like Flickr, MySpace, Picasa, and Facebook to pull your photos down for editing. Most of which processes in real-time.

Fotoflexer has a nifty tool for cutting out images called, what else Smart Cutout, which can help you cut out various pieces of a photo, or recolor them to match the tone of your choice. The cutout is the more useful of the two, and lets you cut people or objects out from a shot without having to trace their outline. Once you've got a cutout, you can add it into another photo, or bring another shot in to the workspace. FotoFlexer is one of the few Web apps for photo editing that offers contextual menus. All in all, it is a really well put together app that could make a solid piece of standalone software
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top ads on on gmail

Let’s say you have been a Hotmail or Yahoo Mail loyalist for all these years and are ready for a change. Google’s Gmail service is certainly a good choice if you are looking to make the switch, as it’s rather snappy in terms of performance and has a clean overall look. Gmail is set up in a way that you could learn the ins and outs of its feature set without too much trouble, but there are ways in which you can truly maximize your Gmail experience through the use of add-ons.
Add-ons do exactly what their name suggests – they add on to the functionality of the main program for which they were designed.  In the case of Gmail, there are several add-ons you can employ to help realize its full potential, and this article will describe some of the best around.
Before we get started, it’s worth mentioning how to access some of the add-ons that will be discussed.  Gmail Labs refers to a collection of certain Gmail features which aren’t exactly official as of yet.  Think of them as experimental ways to increase Gmail’s functionality.  They are not foolproof and can fail, but they are worth giving a shot.  Well, at least some of them are. 
To access Gmail labs, go into your Gmail account and click the little gear icon that resides in the top right-hand corner of the page.  Click Mail Settings, and click on the Labs tab.  Once there, you will see a list of available labs and have the option to either Enable or Disable each one as you please.  Now let’s move on to the details of some of the best add-ons themselves.
Keyboard Shortcuts
As with any area in life, shortcuts get you where you want to be in less time.  That holds true in Gmail as well thanks to keyboard shortcuts.  You can enable keyboard shortcuts via the General tab in Gmail’s settings.  Click Learn more and you will see a large table of Gmail shortcuts that will cut down your clicks.  For example, hitting “f” will forward a message, while typing the letter “a” will initiate a reply all response.  There are plenty more shortcuts to learn, and once you get all of them down, you will be able to navigate Gmail like a pro.
Undo Send
Undo Send is without a doubt one of the most clever and useful add-ons in Gmail Labs.  If you are like most people, you probably sent an email when you were angry and quickly regretted it after hitting the Send button.  With Undo Send, you have the option to cancel an email submission after a few seconds thanks to a grace period that the add-on implements.
Mouse Gestures
Located in Gmail Labs, Mouse Gestures lets you put your mouse to work to navigate Gmail in a way that’s not only faster, but more fun and natural as well.  Optimized for Windows, this add-on gives you the ability to get back to the inbox by holding right-click and moving your mouse upward.  Similarly, you can hold right-click and move the mouse to the left to go to a previous conversation, or right-click and move the mouse to the right to navigate to the next conversation.
Google Calendar Gadget
This add-on may not be the sexiest or most innovative you will find, but it is highly useful.  It simply adds a box to the left column of your Gmail interface that will give you a mini overview of your Google Calendar, complete with details that include vital events that are coming up along with their locations.  For added functionality, you can add an event to your calendar with ease straight from your inbox with just a simple click.
Background Send
Background Send is the perfect add-on from Gmail Labs for those who are constantly in a rush.  Like its name suggests, the add-on lets you send mail in the background in a flash without having to wait around.  As long as you stay logged in to your Gmail account, the email will be sent, but you won’t have to sit there and observe as all of your attachments upload.  Just click Send, and the Compose Mail screen will close.  A small notification will appear to let you know that the message is sending in the background, which allows you to move on to the next task.
Canned Responses
Are you too lazy to respond to each and every email?  If so, head on over to Gmail Labs, locate the Canned Responses option, and enable it.  It will allow you to save common messages and then send them out when applicable.  You can also tweak the add-on to send emails automatically by using filters.
Gmail’s default setting kicks you back to the inbox view after you delete, archive, or mute a conversation.  While this setting may be ideal for most users, you may want to move on to the next conversation in your inbox after performing such actions.  Auto-advance, which is located in Gmail Labs, will give you the option to do so, but you can also choose to go back to the previous or older conversation.
Quick Links
If you are looking for fast one-click access to certain messages, Quick Links is a must.  Enable it in Gmail Labs and you will get a small box in the left column that is essentially a list of custom bookmarks to your most important Gmail items.
SMS (text messaging) in Chat
Enable this Gmail Labs feature if you want to increase Gmail’s functionality and usefulness by implementing the ability to send and receive text messages in chat.
Send & Archive
This Gmail Labs add-on increases efficiency by adding a button to the Compose mail form that gives you the option to Send and Archive a message all at once.
Message Translation
Use this Gmail Labs feature if you work internationally or message with those from other countries.  It uses Google Translate to give you a heads up on what’s going on, no matter what the language.
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