Category Archives: Software

Driving in my car

More and more we hear of the dangers of using a hand-held phone in the car. Some modern cars have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto that connect your phone to the car’s systems. These let you use the system on the car display screen or by voice.

But what if you don’t have either of these? There are some great apps out there that can help.

Smart Dash Cam uses your phone camera to record a continuos loop. It detects a collision and saves the recording.

Drive Mode Dashboard is mainly aimed at two wheels but works for cars as well. It presents a simplified screen with maps, speed, direction and other stats.

If your main need is navigation, then Google Maps is very good but have a look at Here WeGo on the app stores. It warns you of speeding and also provides offline navigation for when you are abroad.

Do more with PDFs

I like sending documents, etc., as PDFs, so that the formatting stays as I want it. If you send them as document files then the printer that others have installed can make your documents look very different as their printer might set different default margins.

One way to make your bigger PDF more exciting is to turn it into a flip book, which simulates turning the pages of a real book. is an interesting site where you upload your pdf and it returns a link to the flipbook that it has created. There is also an admin section where you can customise a few things and download a copy. This means that you can either send people to the link or email the zip file.

On the other hand, if you want to copy the images in a PDF, then using a screen capture tool will just give you fuzzy pictures. Go to the PDF24 image extraction tool, upload the PDF and it will let you download a zip file of all the images at the original quality.

Creating your own leaflets

I create a lot of documents, adverts, flyers and so on. Whilst one can use Microsoft Word or LibreOffice, something more specialist makes life a lot easier. My favourite is Affinity Publisher which has lots of capabilities while being remarkably cheap.

However these packages, whilst great, sort of give you a blank canvas. Maybe you want more of a helping hand. In that case Adobe Spark might be more up your street. It’s free and takes you through the creative process with lots of templates and ideas to make your work stand out.

Take note of your meetings

I’m involved in a few meetings and I’ve been experimenting with transcribing them using Otter on my Android phone (Sorry Apple users).

Just start the App, and it transcribes what it hears through the microphone, and turns it into text on your Android device. The free version allows for up to 40 minutes a recording. Quite clever as it pauses when you are on a phone call and so on.

I also tried it on a radio programme, which worked well. So it looks like you can use Otter on other recordings that you have, such as dictation recorded by someone else.

It does use quite a bit of data, but you can set it to do live transcription over wifi only.

Otter does offer to connect to your calendar and your Google account, but I decided to not let it have access to all about me.

Transcription quality so far is both good and fast so I’ll keep using it and finding out more.

Capture web pages from Microsoft Edge

A useful feature of the Edge web browser is that you can take copies of all or part of a web page that interests you.

Just go to the page you want and press the menu button (three dots at the top-right). Now you can copy a selection that you outline or the whole web page (not just what you can see on the screen, Next press the ‘copy’ icon to paste the image or the’ save’ icon to create an image file.

Another reason to use Edge rather than Chrome. Firefox has a similar feature in the latest versions. Just right click on the web page and choose what you want to copy.

Quick photo editing

Now I like being creative with my photos, so I use Affinity Photo for my photo-editing. A real alternative to Photoshop with outright purchase for £48.99 or less (they have lots of sales!).

But there’s a learning curve, so what if you just need to tweak a photo before, say, emailing or printing? The built-in photos app in Windows 10 has some surprising capabilities. Open the program and load a photo. Now click ‘Edit and create’ at the top-right, then ‘edit’

Now you can crop, rotate and straighten, change the colour balance and brightness – simple to use and free!

Take a look at my video guide to the Photos app:

Adding signature boxes to documents

If you are involved in creating documents that need signatures, here is a great tip for adding signature boxes to Word and LibreOffice writer.

Go to the area where you want the person to sign and select Signature line’ from the insert menu.

A box like this will appear for you to add details:

and what pops out is a signature area. This can be moved around and more created.

It can also be used to digitally sign documents, but this is not yet common. What I do is keep a scan of my signature kept safe on my computer that I insert into documents emailed to me, save and send back.

Turn B&W photos into colour

I’ve been scanning lots of old photos, many are black and white. It would be great to see some of them in colour. Now I hope you remember the film They Shall Not Grow Old, where monochrome film from the First World War changed into colour.

OK, we probably don’t have the same computing power as that studio, but we can get surprisingly close. It can be done laboriously with a photo package, but there are several free and online apps to use. Most are automatic and don’t offer fine tuning but get it pretty right and you can always make a final tweak using photo-editing software. These apps may be limited to the number you can process, but you can usually pay a fee to upgrade.

Here is a recent photo of yours truly processed using Vanceai:

and I don’t think the result is too shabby. There are lots of others if you search for ‘colorizing free’ and another recommended to me is offered by’. This gave similar results but doesn’t seem to be limited in volume:

Make looking around your Windows computer easier

File Explorer or ‘My computer’ enable you to look around files and folders, delete, copy and paste. Sometimes I end up with several windows open, especially if I am copying or moving folders. Gets to be a bit of a pain.

So I’ve found QTTaskbar which adds tabs to File Explorer, a bit like web browsers. This organises my various views and lets me work a lot faster.

Download and run the program, which creates an add-in to File Explorer. On the view tab click the down arrow under options where you can see the various toolbars you can open. I’d start with QTTabbar, so you can see the tabs, and QT Command Bar, where you can change the many options. I tend to close QT Command Bar once I’ve set the options but you may prefer it.

Create your own QR codes

You may have seen rectangles with lots of dots – like this one:

These are called QR codes and are a way to code information so that a phone camera can easily interpret it. The one above has my contact details in a Vcard format and anyone who scans it will add my details to their contact list.

This may not sound like too much use to you, but many sorts of information can be encoded. For example, details of an event that you are asking people to in one code and location details in another. Then you can put them into your email, letter or advertisement so that people can add it to calendars with no fear of errors, (as long as you get it right!)