Fast Fixes for Common PC Problems
Help iTunes Auto-Detect New Songs
iTunes 8 updates your library when you buy songs from the iTunes Store or use it to rip songs from CDs. But what if you want to add music from other sources such as Amazon or eMusic? Alas, with iTunes, unlike just about every other music manager, you have to add files and folders manually.
Thankfully, there's iTunes Folder Watch, a free Windows utility that monitors designated folders and then automatically adds any newly discovered music to your iTunes library.
After installing the application, run it by clicking Start, iTunes Folder Watch, iTunes Folder Watch (Background Monitoring). This action will launch iTunes, create an "iTFW New Tracks" playlist, and add a new icon to your system tray. Right-click that icon, click Open, and then add one or more folders to watch. Click the Check Now button to have iTFW scan for any tracks not already in your iTunes library. If it finds any, you'll see them listed in the New Tracks tab. One more click whisks the songs into iTunes.
You'll also want to visit the Configuration tab so that you can select and tweak iTFW's options, such as one that automatically adds newfound tracks to iTunes.
Remove Duplicate Entries From Microsoft Outlook
The longer you use Outlook, the more likely you are to end up with duplicate records. Sometimes they're the result of synchronization errors with a phone, PDA, or Web site, and sometimes, well, it's just Outlook being Outlook. Either way, duplicates can be a hassle-but you can purge them easily. Outlook Duplicate Items Remover, or ODIR for short, eliminates duplicate contacts, calendar entries, tasks, notes, and e-mail folders.
After installing the
program, simply fire up Microsoft Outlook, and look for the newly added ODIR menu. Click it, then select Remove Duplicate Items. Choose the folder you want ODIR to scan; it'll find duplicates and relocate them to a subfolder (without actually deleting anything). The tool is fast, simple, and effective--just the way freeware ought to be. ODIR is compatible with Outlook 2000 and later.
Open Office 2007 Documents in Older Versions of Office
With Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft introduced a new batch of file formats: .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx, all incompatible with earlier versions of the suite. So if someone sends you a Word 2007 document and you use Word 2003, an error message awaits you. Fortunately, the fix is easy: Use the succinctly named Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats.
MOCPWEP2007FF enables you to open Office 2007 documents in Office 2000, 2003, or XP without any work on your part. Just make sure that your suite has the latest Service Pack installed--either SP3 for Office 2000 and XP, or SP1 for Office 2003.
If you don't want to go to all that trouble and you need to convert just a single .docx file, point your browser to docx-converter.com. Upload your file, select your desired format (.doc is just one choice), and enter your e-mail address. In short order you'll get a message containing a link to download the converted file. It's a free service.
Organize a Huge, Messy Digital-Photo Library
Sorry, but the shoebox approach doesn't work in the age of digital photography: You can't just dump every snapshot into your My Documents folder and still expect to find specific photos again. What you need is a photo-management program that supports tags, or keywords that you assign to each picture. For example, suppose you have a vacation photo of you and your friend Jane standing on a beach in, say, Aruba. You'd assign tags like me, Jane, beach, vacation, and Aruba.
Get in the practice of adding tags to your photos and you'll turn a disorganized mess into an easily searchable library. Google Picasa 3 and Windows Live Photo Gallery are among the free photo managers that support tagging. I'm partial to the latter (which is newer and better than the Photo Gallery app that's built into Vista), mostly because it makes tagging easier. All you do is select one or more pictures, click the Info button, and then click Add tags in the Info pane. To use existing tags, just drag photos onto the tag name in the navigation pane.