Gmail Helpers

I love Gmail because it’s easy to access from anywhere there’s an Internet connection.

But sometimes browsers and even Windows itself don’t know how to attach a PDF file to Gmail. And if you need frequent access to more than one Gmail account, signing out and in again is an annoyance. I found solutions!

Outsmart Adobe Reader and send your PDFs via Gmail and Outlook.com

Adobe Reader is the oldest and best-known PDF reader. Although there are others, Reader dominates, and it has its quirks.

One of the most annoying “features” of modern versions of Reader tries to force us to use a desktop email client like Windows Live Mail or Thunderbird.

If you scan something, open it in Adobe Reader and want to email that thing, you might just want to send it via Hotmail, or Outlook.com or Gmail. But Reader insists it has no idea what you’re talking about, feigning ignorance of web-based email.

I found a way around it.

  • Open your document in Adobe Reader
  • Click on the envelope icon
  • Click on Send a File
  • Choose which web-based email you want to use, and follow the prompts on the next screens to enter your email address and password. (If you always want to use this email address, check the Remember my choice box. Leave it blank for more flexibility.)
  • Follow the prompts to see your chosen email open and attach your file.
  • Address the email, type in your message, change the subject line if you like! Then send your email

You can follow the progression here. I used Gmail for that demonstration. The instructions for Hotmail/Outlook.com are the same; the screens would look a little different.

Outsmart everything and use Gmail as your email client

Gmail is meant to be used in a browser. Of course, Google would prefer you use it in Google’s browser, called Chrome. But it works well in Firefox, and it will limp along in Microsoft Edge.

The advantage of a web-based email is that you do not need an email client like Windows Live Mail or Outlook to access your email. All you need is a device with an internet connection. Y

ou’ll be able to send and receive your email and have access to all your saved email from any internet-connected computer. Which is most of them.

If there’s a disadvantage, it comes when you’re using more than one Gmail account. When you’re signed into one and you want to access another you have to sign out of the open account and sign in to the other one. Having to do that all day is an annoyance.

I’ve been testing an app called Kiwi, which looks like Gmail in a browser but functions like a desktop email client. This works well, and gives you access to all the features of the browser version.

The real draw here is that it gives you access to more than one Gmail account without having to sign in and out each time.

There are plenty of other features, particularly if you use G Suite (the new name for Google Apps). Kiwi links Gmail, Google Docs, and Sheets in a way that makes it feel a lot like Microsoft Office 365.

(More about G Suite here.)

There are free and paid versions. When you download Kiwi, you’ll get a trial version with all the features. After 30 days you can either subscribe for $9.99 (USD) per year, or lose some of the features and use the free version.

In comparing features, you can see the paid version gives you access to six Gmail accounts. The free version limits you to just one.

What if you have two Gmail accounts? Well, there’s nothing to stop you from using Kiwi for one of them and a browser for the other.

Have you tried Kiwi or another desktop email client for Gmail? Does it work for you?

Send email to [email protected] and tell us what you like and what you don’t.

Get your ducks in a row

We’re all going some time. And even before we go, we can be in a situation where we can’t handle our own affairs for a time.

The polite thing to do is to make sure someone has access to the information they need to look after your digital (and real life) assets.

Write down your passwords?

Where do you store your passwords?

There is no single right answer to this, but there is a wrong answer. That answer is, “In my head.”

If something happens to you, your family or friends are going to need access to — at a minimum — your financial information.

People, please. Write down your passwords, and write down what they are for. A pile of scraps with just your passwords doesn’t cut it.

What should you keep track of, and how should you do it?

The Digital Passing website has an exhaustive Digital Audit Form here. It is thought-provoking.

I have a record of my credit cards and bank information as well as my online passwords. But I hadn’t done anything about voicemail codes until I looked at that form.

Keep your information in a secure place, but make sure someone who will need it knows where it is. Some of my customers keep their passwords in a safe deposit box or a home safe. Others make sure their lawyer or their children have access to it.

(I am not a lawyer. Check with a lawyer about the law.)

I’d also suggest making sure someone knows where your address book is, whether it’s a contact list on your phone or online, or an actual book.

However you decide to handle this, the second most important thing about it is to keep the information up to date. When you add, change, or delete something, make sure that information makes it to the master form and to any copies you have stashed.

What about social media?

When conducting your digital audit (or simply recording your user names and passwords) you included Facebook, right?

That’s good!

Facebook also lets you specify what happens to your account when you die. You can elect either to have a Memorialized account, or have your account deleted entirely. This Facebook help page explains each choice and how to choose.

Google’s Inactive Account Manager allows you to designate someone who can access your Gmail, Google Photos, and Docs in the event your account is inactive for a specified period of time. (You get to specify.) Read more about that here. Here’s a look at the setup page.

What about Dropbox, Twitter, and other online storage and services? You can get a good overview here.

Organize everything else, too

There are lots of ways to go about this, and something is better than nothing. But exhaustive is best. The most exhaustive way that I know of is Erik A. Dewey’s Big Book of Everything.

Dewey says: "People will know what accounts to cancel, have access to your email, know where important papers are kept, and otherwise streamline what is already a painful process."

The Big Book of Everything is free to download in PDF and Excel formats. Take an hour or so and start getting your information organized.

Take a few minutes to update every time something changes, and be sure to tell someone where to find the Big Book when they need it.

Best tips

As we head into the holiday weekend, I need a little bit of a break. This week, we’re re-posting three recent items readers found interesting or helpful.

Hope you are enjoying your holiday.

Outsmart the Windows 10 Start Menu

The Windows 10 Start Menu combines the familiar Windows 7-ish Start Menu on its left side with the tiles of Windows 8.1. Allegedly the best of both worlds, it still takes some getting used to.

Down the left side of the menu, the programs and apps appear in alphabetical order. That’s useful if your frequently used programs all begin with A or B. But if you often use Google Chrome, Sticky Notes, Mozilla Firefox or Word, you’re doing a whole lot of scrolling.

You can pin a program to the Taskbar, or you can pin a program’s tile to the right side of the menu.

If you use a program frequently, either or both of those choices are good! But if you just need to find something quickly now and then, click on any letter you see in the Start Menu and all the letters will be displayed. Click on the letter you want, and then on your program.

Never scroll again!

Transfer files from one computer to another … with your browser

When you want to send a lot of files (like pictures) or a large file (like a video or spreadsheet-from-hell) to someone, email is an inefficient and insecure way to do that.

There are so many alternatives. But most of them either insist you create an account or limit the amount of data you can transfer, or store your files on their servers. Sometimes that’s not what you want.

If you can’t be bothered creating accounts and dreaming up passwords or you simply don’t want your stuff “in the cloud” try Take A File.

It’s dead easy.

  • Open your Firefox or Chrome browser.
  • Browse to https://takeafile.com/.
  • Drag and drop your file(s) into the box on that page. Take A File generates a link to that file. It’s still on your computer; you’ve never uploaded it the way you do for WeTransfer, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Facebook and so on.
  • Send the link to someone (or send it to yourself to download on another computer or your smartphone!) and keep that tab open in your browser until your recipient downloads the file.

No one has to create and account or login. The file is encrypted during transfer. Only someone with the link to the file can get the file. When the sender closes his/her browser, the link won’t work.

I still love Dropbox, and I still use OneDrive and Google Drive to store files that I want to share. But when I just need to get something quickly from one place to another, Take A File looks like a good solution.

Help! My Desktop icons are tiny! (or HUGE!)

Did you know that you can easily change the size of the icons on your Windows Desktop? Although this has been a feature since Vista, most people never find out about it until the size changes accidentally.

On any modern version of Windows:

  • Right-click on a vacant area of your Desktop
  • Click on View
  • Click on the size you want
  • Make sure you have a check mark next to Show Desktop Icons

You might be wondering how the size got changed in the first place, given that you have to right-click and then click and then click again. Well, there’s another way to change the size, and you’re not limited to three size choices.

With your mouse cursor on the Desktop, hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and scroll with the wheel on your mouse.

You should see the size of the Desktop icons change.

You can go smaller than small and larger than large, or stop anywhere on the continuum. I believe this is how this changes unintentionally. It only takes a couple of seconds to goof this up, and it’s another 12-second fix. Now you know!

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada! Happy Independence Day, U.S.A.


How to kill an app

I fix computers and clean up computers for a living, so I’m used to seeing popups from malicious software and infected web browsers.

But this last two weeks has been a wild ride, with rogue popups from legitimate programs.

Here’s how to kill the Amazon Assistant and tame the Office update window.

Amazon Assistant is less than helpful

Several customers reached out to me in the last couple of weeks about a Windows 10 app called Amazon Assistant. I don’t know who updated what -— Microsoft or Amazon — but something went haywire with this app, and it’s not easy to get rid of it.

As soon as Windows loaded, dozens of windows popped up all over the screen with error messages for the Amazon Assistant. People were alarmed, as this is exactly the kind of behaviour we see when a computer is infected.

Technically, this isn’t an infection. It’s just a huge annoyance made more annoying by the fact that you have to outwit the app to un-install it.

You should be able to open the Start Menu, right-click on the Amazon Assistant app, and then click Uninstall. But for some reason there’s often no Uninstall choice available.

If you have that choice, clicking on it takes you to the new Apps and Features area of Settings.

But even there, as my colleague at Bluebird Business Consulting pointed out, the Uninstall and Modify choices are greyed out. You can’t get rid of it here, either.

What we need is the good old-fashioned Control Panel, where we can still uninstall things they way we used to in the good old Windows XP days! But in Control Panel, there’s no Uninstall choice for this little devil.

The only choice we have is “Change.”

Select Amazon Assistant and click on Change. Follow the prompts and a couple screens in you will, finally, have a choice to Uninstall.

Do it!

Honestly, there’s no excuse for this. This thing acts like malicious software.

If you want to keep it from coming back:

  • Right-click on an empty spot on your Taskbar
  • Click on Task Manager | Startup
  • If you see the Amazon Assistant, select it, and click on Disable

Strange but true: I’ve only seen this problem on Acer computers, which were upgraded to Windows 10 Creators Update. That doesn’t mean the rest of us won’t have this problem at some point, but right now it seems to be hitting Acers hard.

Those May Office Updates were interesting

Last month’s Windows Updates for Office 2016 created a confusing problem. I have a fast computer, so I didn’t notice it right away, but after those updates, Office started opening a Command window in the background and quickly closing it. Every. Single. Hour.

What the heck?

Apparently, it’s checking for … what? More Updates?

Here’s how to stop that.

  • Click on Start | Windows Administrative Tools | Task Scheduler
  • In Task Scheduler click on Office
  • Select OfficeBackgroundTaskHandlerRegistration
  • In the right-hand pane, click on Disable

That will stop it, and you will still get your Office updates through Windows Update. What on earth were they thinking?

This might have been corrected in June. If you’re not seeing that black window open and close, you’re one of the lucky ones, and you don’t need to worry about this.

More Getting Along With Your Computer articles

About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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