Three useful utilities

This week I found three little programs that work just the way they say they do. One of them is even built right in to Windows. Set simple or complex reminders, take control of your laptop, and safely eject those flash drives without squinting.


Desktop Reminder 2 does just what it says

Recently (http://rlis.com/columns/column346.htm) I mentioned Xcalday (http://xcalday.sylfid.com/), a simple program that will remind you of one thing a day. It’s a great little program, but some of you want something more robust. If you want a task planner that’s easy to use, easy to see, and offers more flexibility than Xcalday, Desktop Reminder 2 is worth a look.

You can set reminders, make a recurring task, search and filter with the free version. The paid version includes a day planner as well. Both versions use a ribbon interface like Microsoft Office programs. You can grab Desktop Reminder 2 from the author’s site, here: http://www.desktop-reminder.com/en/index.html. There are many more features, even in the free version.

Windows Mobility Center puts you in control of your laptop

If you have a laptop running Windows 7 Home Premium or better (or even Vista Home Premium or better) you have a great little utility on your laptop that you probably don’t even know about. Windows Mobility Center provides ready access to the most useful settings on your laptop without forcing you to use key combinations.

Activate Mobility Center by pressing the Windows and the X key at the same time. The Mobility Center presents you with a “tiles” for controlling screen brightness, volume, switching your wireless connection off and on, and lets you see the battery status. Sometimes there are tiles for external displays and presentation settings. Not all computers can do all functions, and some computer manufacturers replace the generic Mobility Center with their own branded one.

You’ll find more information about the Windows 7 Mobility Center here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Using-Windows-Mobility-Center. Vista users go here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/Using-Windows-Mobility-Center. If you have a Vista or Windows 7 laptop, try out the Mobility Center and see what you think.

USB Disk Ejector safely removes USB drives without the hassle

No matter what version of Windows you’re using, it’s a really bad idea to just yank a USB flash drive or external hard drive out of the USB port. You should safely remove it to make sure none of your important data becomes corrupted.

There are several ways to do this. The most common one is to squint at the notification area by the clock in the lower right corner of the screen and look for a tiny green icon, click on it, and click on the drive.

Now you know why lots of people never bother to do this!

Another way to do this --- without squinting --- is to click on Computer, find the drive, right-click on it and click on “Eject” in Windows 7 or “Safely remove” in Vista. Still a lot of clicking but it’s easier to see.

If you already know you’re not going to remember that way either, try a utility called USB Disk Ejector. (http://quick.mixnmojo.com/software/usb-disk-ejector). It will work on anything from XP to Windows 7. It’s super easy to use. It can eject things that Windows (Vista in particular) fusses about and won’t let you eject without swearing at it. You can make desktop shortcuts to your drives, and if you put Disk Ejector on a flash drive, it can even eject the flash drive it’s on. Don’t ask me how they do that, but I’ve tried it and it works. Download here: http://quick.mixnmojo.com/downloads?download=USBDiskEjector1.3.0.3.zip

Do you have a program that makes your computing life a little easier? Please email me at [email protected] and tell me about it. I’ll share your suggestions in a future column.

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

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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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