Tag Archives: Professional Version

Spider Player - Free music only media player

spider

Despite the fact there are an inordinate number of media players available, it is difficult to find one that is quite as well rounded as Windows Media Player; the application included as standard with Windows. Many other media players are either overloaded with features you will never use or stripped down to the point where the few extra features you are likely to use on a daily basis are missing.

Just recently, however, I was pointed in the direction of Spider Player, an application that is available via a free download at www.spider-player.com. Admittedly this is just a music player and does not support videos files but focusing purely on audio allows it to excel in this area.

It offers a 32-bit sound processing irrespective of the specification of your sound card which should ensure a high quality of playback of all your audio files. The player also supports 5.1/7.1 surround as well as traditional stereo/mono audio files.

Standard features such as the ability to open individual files and create and save playlists are also included along with a wonderfully simple equalizer panel which is available at all times. This can be minimised if you should wish but this feature, along with the DSP effects manager allows you to customise the sound of the playback to your personal taste.

Along with supporting every conceivable file format, Spider Player will also allow you to convert existing audio files in to another format; for example to change a WAV file to a small MP3 file. This is provided in addition to the ability to rip tracks directly from a CD and then convert them in to a number of formats including MP3, WMA and OGG.

Direct access is provided to a number of Internet radio stations and can record up to five minutes of transmission to any one file (recording time is unlimited in the professional version).

While the standard design of the player is relatively pleasing as it is, the player is fully skinnable with a variety of designs available for free from the developer’s website. If you would rather personalise your own player, there is a skin development package available for download from the website.

Users who require the ability to play video may be best looking into downloading the excellent VLC Media Player, one of the many alternatives mentioned in Click over the years, or sticking with the faithful Windows Media Player. For those that are primarily concerned with music, Spider Player certainly comes highly recommended as although the claim “The Ultimate Music Player” may seem rather grandiose it certainly comes with all the features I could hope for without any of the chaff I would have previously tolerated.

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges including the Canon PGI-520Bk at incredibly low prices.

Microsoft Office 2010

MS-Office-2010

Despite it being the second most used application on my work computer (behind the Mozilla Firefox browser), it’s still impossible for me to get excited about a new edition of the Microsoft Office suite.

With the final release due in a couple of months, Microsoft have provided a beta test version of Office 2010 that’s free for members of the public to download. The beta test version will run unhindered until October 2010 at which point users must decide whether they wish to purchase the final release or have it removed from their hard drive.

For the costs involved the majority of home users may still be better off with the free OpenOffice Suite (www.openoffice.org) as it should provide all the features you are likely to need at no cost. This having been said, the Office Suite has remained a popular flagship product over the years due to business users often requiring a specific function or application only present in the Microsoft offering. I, for example, use Outlook on a regular basis and haven’t yet found an alternative that suits my needs.

Having not been the biggest fan of Office 2007 (especially the ‘ribbon’ interface discussed in the past) I wasted no time downloading the 64-bit professional version of the beta to put it through its paces. I have now been using it for a couple of days it does appear notably faster than Office 2007 and certainty incredibly stable. The speed increase could easily be attributed to the fact that a 64-bit version of the application is now available to run on modern 64-bit computers.

Office Professional 2010 includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, InfoPath, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher. The home edition (also currently available in beta) includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote. After the official release, computer manufacturers may choose to bundle new machines with a starter edition of Office which includes just Excel and Word; this version of Office will replace the aging Microsoft Works Suite.

Although the ribbon interface remains, it is certainly a lot clearer than that provided with Office 2007; the confusing Office orb has been replaced with the familiar file menu, there are fewer distracting borders, a neutral colour scheme and most importantly it is customisable to the users individual tastes. The applications look and behave like a ‘family’ now and have become more intuitive to use as a result of the more refined user interface.

An important new feature due for release in the final version but missing from the beta is the ‘Web Apps’ which will extend the Office functionality to a compatible web browser. Very similar in form to Google Docs, Office Web Apps allows users to collaborate, edit and share Office documents online. This is an incredibly important new feature that has no doubt come about due to the success of Google Docs and one that I would like to field test when complete.

This article isn’t long enough to go in to details about minor new features so I will summarise by observing that the changes made from Office 2007 to Office 2010 are evolutionary rather than revolutionary; very much in the same way that Windows 7 was an evolutionary change compared with Vista. Excluding the Web Apps there is nothing substantially new however the minor improvements are certainly welcome as is the chance to road test a new piece of software completely free of charge for a year.

Users interested in downloading the beta version of Office 2010 should visit www.microsoft.com/office/2010 to get their hands on a copy.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges. They supply a range of compatible and original printer cartridges at low prices, including the HP 364XL Black.

OpenOffice 3.0

OpenOffice

This week OpenOffice 3.0 was released and once again I found myself questioning as to why we spend good money on Microsoft Office when there is a completely free alternative available that does the job just as well.After all, it’s not as if Office 2007 is cheap; the professional version comes in at an impressive £350 and it’s not as if I even like Office 2007.

Unlike previous versions which used a standard Windows interface, I find the latest incarnation completely out of keeping with other applications which all keep to roughly the same, familiar user interface.Perhaps old age it starting to catch up with me but even after a year of usage I still find myself spending what seems like an eternity looking in vein for even the most basic of functions. Software for the Windows Operating System has always adhered to a certain menu layout so that users could quickly and easily pick up a new application, but it seems Microsoft now require us to spend weeks figuring out where they’ve moved a basic function such as ‘find’ which should be located in a drop down ‘edit’ menu.

OpenOffice does include almost everything that you could require from an office suite and fortunately the interface is laid out in a fashion becoming a Windows application so it shouldn’t take long to pick up.The applications below shouldn’t be considered cut down versions of the Microsoft equivalent; this is a powerful piece of software in its own right and most users won’t notice any difference in functionality:

Writer: The equivalent to Microsoft Word which includes all the usual features such as AutoCorrect, AutoComplete, AutoFormat, Styles and Formatting, Spellchecker, Grammar Checker and illustration tools.Unlike many other applications (including previous versions of Microsoft Word), Writer can also open and save the .docx format that is used by default in Office 2007.

Calc: Similar to Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet application, Calc includes all the standard functions as well as more advanced features such as an Intelligent Sum button and Scenario Manager.

Impress: This is designed to replace Office’s PowerPoint presentation application to allow you to create multimedia applications using a combination of clipart, drawing tools, animation, transition effects, text tools and special effects.Work can be shared using a number of formats such as the standards .pdf, .html and Flash.

Draw: Does pretty much what it says on the tin; Draw allows to create graphics including sketches and plans quickly and easily.

Base: An advanced database application for managing raw data, forms, queries, tables and reports which also includes a number of wizards that should get newcomers up and running immediately.

It’s at this point that the penny drops and I realise that there is something missing; unfortunately an e-mail client as an alternative to Microsoft Outlook appears to be absent which for an Internet company such as Refresh is a big issue hence why we probably haven’t yet made the switch.While there are free alternatives available such as Outlook Express and Mozilla Thunderbird I personally have never found they come anywhere close to Outlook in terms of functionality.

Perhaps for the next incarnation they will consider the inclusion of an e-mail client but this omission aside, OpenOffice is a near perfect application which can be downloaded free of charge from www.openoffice.org.The 142mb file size, whilst large, shouldn’t take more than about half an hour, even on modest broadband connections.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges including Samsung M40 cartridges at incredibly low prices.

WindowsCare

Advanced_WindowsCare

Being a guy who used to make a living from repairing computers, you might understand that I’m slightly cynical about the prospect of people repairing their own machines when things go wrong; if anything serious should happen then you’re certainly best off calling a professional.In my experience, a little knowledge in the wrong hands can be deadly and often attempting to repair your Operating System yourself will end in tears!

That having been said, I do certainly see the need for applications that can provide an element of automated system repair and preventive maintenance and one such application I recently discovered called Advanced WindowsCare fits that bill nicely.

The version of the software that I will be reviewing today is the free personal edition; however there is also a $29.95 professional version.Compatible with Windows 2000, XP and Vista, both versions can be obtained from www.iobit.com, and with the personal edition weighing in at only 6mb it shouldn’t take two minutes to download.Once installed the level of automation is quite scary; simply click the scan button and the application will look inside your computer and will categorise your problems in to the following areas:

Spyware – Provides details of any Spyware or Adware installed on your computer; whilst there are a million and one applications providing this facility, another one certainly won’t hurt.

Security Defence – Identifies areas of your system that can be ‘immunised’ to prevent possible security compromising software from being installed on your machine.

Registry Fix – The Windows registry is a huge file that contains thousands of Windows settings and parameters.This section will highlight any entries that are invalid or incorrect.

System Optimisation – Any areas of your system Operating System identified as being inefficient by the software will be listed in this category.

Startup Manager – I have in the past explained the importance of minimising the amount of unnecessary software which launches on system startup and this application makes removing it extremely simple.

Privacy Sweep – This category will list all activity history and traces on your computer.Removing them will potentially increase your computers security, or avoid potential embarrassment if you’ve been doing something you shouldn’t have been.

Junk Files Clean – Windows stores a surprisingly large amount of rubbish that can quickly and easily identified and removed with no ill effects.

You will be given a chance to review any changes that the application plans to make although doing so would be extremely labour intensive as on my three month old laptop 40,000 issues were raised; the majority of them being 33,000 odd possible system immunisations.Giving WindowsCare the benefit of the doubt I simply clicked on repair and so far I have had no cause for concern however it is worthwhile bearing in mind that the application does allow you to back up your system settings before any changes are made, then restore them if you suffer any problems.

I don’t think there’s really a huge amount left to say about this application.It installed easily, it worked efficiently and it removed countless potential problems from my system in a matter of minutes.I would certainly recommend downloading and installing this fantastic piece of free software - if you are currently having problems with your system it could solve them, and if you’re not then it could prevent them.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges. They are a UK based company who specialise in the supply of high quality printer cartridges, including Dell 593-10094 at incredibly low prices.

Trillian

trillian5-desktop

Instant messenger services are more popular than ever and over the past couple of years I’ve been able to get around to reviewing a handful of them.These applications offer a free and convenient way for Internet users to chat one another, usually through simple text dialogue.

Unfortunately there are many several different products on the market and the likelihood of everyone you know using the same one is quite remote which tends to result in some people juggling their contacts between two or more different systems.It is precisely this reason that I have chosen today to look at a piece of software which aims to bridge the gap between these different applications.

‘Trillian’ has been around for around many years now when the initial release became available to the public back in mid 2000 although at this time it was a simple IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client.It wasn’t until the end of 2000 that the application took a pretty major change in direction by becoming compatible with existing applications such as MSN Messenger, ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger and this is when its popularity started to soar.It is worthwhile noting that throughout the evolution of this program IRC support has been maintained.

Trillian makes life easy because once you’ve downloaded the free software and set-up all your Instant Messaging user names and passwords then you need only ever use one application.From this point whenever you load the Trillian application it will instantly sign you in to all of your IM accounts simultaneously so you can talk to your contacts irrespective of which program they use.

The basic version of the application is around 8.5mb in size and as well as being completely free of charge doesn’t contain any adware or spyware.The company generates income by relying on those users that need some more advanced features upgrading to the professional version at a cost of around £15.The professional version does add many important features such as video calling and the ability to install plug-ins (addition features developed separately from the main application) but I’ll stay focussing on the free version of the software for the purposes of this review.

As well as making life more convenient this application is also popular because it contains some pretty advanced features such as tabbed messaging, changeable skins, emoticons and audio chat.A handy feature is the instant lookup tool which allows you to immediately look up any word present in a conversation window with the online Wikipedia Encyclopaedia or by searching the Internet.

Some users may find that even if they only ever use one instant messaging program that they would rather use Trillian because the user interface is much better than that provided with many of the other IM programs available out there.Whilst all IM programs have features specific to their individual software Trillian has seemed to cover all the important stuff, even in the free version.

If instant messaging is your thing then head to www.ceruleanstudios.com and download the application for free.I would really recommend giving this program a chance as I do see too many people trying to juggle their contacts across several different applications and with quality software like this on the market it really isn’t necessary.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Lexmark X1170 Printer.

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