Archive for category Tips & Tricks
We’ve all been there: You go to shut down your machine, but you see that dreaded Windows Update icon that means your computer might stay powered on, installing updates for the next 20 minutes. If you want to shut it down immediately, you can trick it by going to the lock screen first.
To avoid installing updates when you shut down, all you need to do is lock your computer (which you can do by pressing Win+L). Then, from that screen, head down to the shut down button, where you’ll see an option to “Install Updates and Shut Down” or just “Shut Down”—an option you don’t get from the regular ol’ Start menu. Choose “Shut Down” and you can wait to install those updates when you aren’t in a rush. For a more permanent solution, of course, you can hack the registry, but this will do in a pinch.
This was a great year for all things photography, with posts to help you behind the camera, in front of it, when you’re shooting, and when you’re editing. Here’s a look back at our most popular photography tips, tricks, and hacks of 2011.
Many programs use sound to some degree, such as alerts, music or other effects. Sometimes you want to mute sounds coming from a specific program or the windows system (Then you should read this post). If you don’t want to mute the sound entirely, but would like to lower it or let one program play louder sounds than others, well this is how:
- Double-Click the Speaker icon in your lower right corner.
- Click on the Mixer-link
- Now you will see all running applications playing sound. Adjust the sliders to your likings. The volume can be equal to or lower than the main sound volume.
Photoshop is an amazing tool that can take any photo and change it into anything you can imagine. While it can take years of practice to alter reality like a pro, there are a few simple tricks you can employ to reshape the world captured in your photos. Here are five of our favorite techniques and how to use them effectively.
“Note: While this guide centers around Adobe Photoshop (CS5, specifically), many of these tricks are possible in other image editors. Even if you don’t have Photoshop you’re not necessarily left out of the party. Read through the tips as we’ve tried to use methods that can be replicated in other software as well.”
Pop Pimples (and Remove Other Blemishes)
Sometimes faces aren’t as pretty as you might like, or dust got on your lens, or you missed a little bit of blood on the carpet when cleaning up after your last murder. Whatever the case may be, Photoshop is really great at removing unwanted visual information and offers three great tools to help. We’re going to take a look at them all.
“Watch the video to the left for a visual walkthrough or read on for a description of how to use each tool. Also, thank you to Instructables user KentsOkay and his real-life pimple-popping tutorial for the photo used in the video.”
The Clone Stamp is the old-fashioned way to repair blemishes and undesirable aspects of your images. It’s a tool you’ll actually find in many image editors, so if you’re not a Photoshop user you may still be able to touch up your photos all the same. To use it, you select it from the toolbar. (It looks like a stamp if you want to click it, but you can press S on your keyboard too.) First find an area of the photo that you want to clone. You’re going to use this clone area to paint over the thing you want to remove, so pick something that is similar in color, tone, and texture. When you’ve made your choice, hold down alt/option and click it. Now move your brush over to the thing you want to remove and paint over it. If you selected a good source area, the blemish will now be gone.
The Healing Brush is what you want to use when the Clone Stamp is looking too, well, clone-y. The Healing Brush actually works in exactly the same way as the Clone Stamp, but when you release the mouse a little Photoshop magic happens and it attempts to blend the brush’s source with the area it’s covering up. This makes the result look a little more unique and not like you just borrowed another part of the image. It’s generally ideal for removing pimples and other blemishes but terrible at, say, removing a tree from an empty field.
Content-Aware Fill is a cool new feature that was added in Photoshop CS5. Basically, you select any part of a photograph that you want to remove, press Shift+Delete, choose “Use: Content-Aware” (if it isn’t selected already), and click OK. Photoshop will think for a second and then try to cover up your selection. Sometimes it will do a phenomenal job and it will look like your selected object completely vanished. Other times it’ll completely botch the job or at least leave a trace. If it’s just a trace, you can use the previously mentioned tools to touch up Photoshop’s mistakes. If it’s a botched job you’ll just have to do the entire thing manually. Either way, when it works (or mostly works), this Content-Aware Fill is a huge time-saver.
Change Facial Expressions
One often-ignored feature in Photoshop is the Liquify tool, which is capable of warping your images in some compelling ways. We’ve previously demonstrated how it can be used to fix distortions, but it can also do something a little more fun: change facial expressions.
“Watch the video to the left for a visual walkthrough or read on for the written version.”
The important thing is to be careful and maintain subtlety when employing this technique because you can make your subject look completely ridiculous if you’re not careful. (See the “BAD” photo in the example on the right for a look at how altering an expression can go a little overboard.)
Taking care to maintain realism actually makes the process a lot easier because you don’t have to do very much to achieve the desired change. The real challenge is understanding how the muscles of the face work so you’re altering the relevant areas. For example, when someone smiles (genuinely, that is) their eyes squint a bit, their cheeks rise, and, of course, the edges of their mouth curl upward. If you only altered the mouth, the smile would look a little off. Before you even try this you should go look in a mirror and make both the original and desired facial expression. Watch which muscles move and how as you switch between the two. Once you know, you’re ready to use the Liquify tool.To alter the facial expression in your image, open it up in Photoshop and follow these steps:
- Go to the Filter menu and choose Liquify.
- Select the Warp Tool if it isn’t already selected. (It’s the first tool in the toolbar in the top left corner of the Liquify window. You can select it by clicking on it or just pressing the W key on your keyboard.)
- On the right side of the Liquify window you’ll see options for the selected tool. In that section, set your brush size fairly small. Generally a brush size between three and 20 will work, but your goal is to make it a little larger than the height of the smile line.
- When your brush is the right size, use the Warp Tool to paint the edges of the smile upward. It works just like a brush, but all you do is click on the area you want to move and use your mouse or trackpad to pull it in the direction you want. ”Do not move the mouth too much”or it will look ridiculous. You don’t want to try and move it into a full smile or it will look fake, but rather move it out of the frowning position. You’ll be able to sell the happier look by altering other parts of the face.
- Increase the size of your Warp Tool brush by about two times and use it to push the cheeks of your subject upward just slightly.
- Change the size of your Warp Tool brush to match the size of your subjects eyes, then use it to push the area directly below the eye upward just a tiny bit.
Now you should be done and your subject should look a little more pleasant. While some added patience and time could change your subject’s expression more dramatically, it’s generally better to keep it simple so the change looks natural and not cartoonish-ly false.
Few of us have perfectly white teeth, but we can brush the yellow away with the help of a couple of tools in Photoshop. All you really have to do is desaturate your not-so-pearly whites and then brighten them up. Just watch the video to the left or follow these steps:
- Take the Sponge Tool and paint away the yellow parts of the teeth. You can use the default settings (desaturate, 50% flow) but you’ll want to pick a brush size that’ll fit nicely into the teeth you’re whitening.
- Desaturating with the sponge is going to leave you with some ugly gray shadows, unfortunately, since yellow is darker in tone than pure white, but we can fix that! In the same place you found the sponge tool, you can also select the Dodge Tool. This tool will brighten up areas of a photo, but the default flow setting (50%) is way too high. Something between 10-15% will work much better. You also want to make sure you Dodge Tool is set to brighten up the midtones, which you can select directly to the left of the flow settings.
- Once you have your settings in place, use the Dodge Tool to paint over the gray areas of the teeth. This will lighten them up so they match the whiter parts of the teeth. If you find you’re over-brightening these areas, just lower the Flow setting of the Dodge Tool and try again.
It can take a little practice to be perfectly precise and have a clean, even look, but once you get the hang of it you’ll have the perfectly white teeth—or at least your photos will.
Lighten Up Underexposed Faces
One of the most common problems with your photos is that some part of them is underexposed. This often happens with your subject’s face or even their entire body. Fortunately it is incredibly easy to fix this problem in Photoshop or any other image editor. Just follow these steps (or watch the video to the left):
- Open your image and use a rectangular marquee tool to select the portion you want to brighten up. Be sure to leave some room around the edges. Copy your selection and paste it into a new layer.
- Use Levels, Curves, or a lighting adjustment tool of your choice to boost the midtones. Doing this may wash out the color of the image a little bit, so if you can you should also boost the red channel’s midtones in the selection. In Curves, you can do this by selecting Red from the Channels drop-down menu and pulling upward on its curve.
- Select the eraser tool and use a soft brush to erase the edges around the part of the image you brightened up so only the part you want remains.
- Adjust the opacity of the brightened selection until the brightness is exactly where you want it.
“Note: In Photoshop you can also make your selection very quickly with the Quick Mask tool and alter the brightness and color of that selection using an Adjustment Layer. I like the above method because there is virtually no layer-based image editor that isn’t capable of performing this trick. That said, using Quick Mask and an Adjustment Layer is proper practice in Photoshop. If you’re not familiar with these tools, check out our overview of Photoshop’s tools and features.”
When you’re done your photo should look like it was shot under better, more compelling lighting.
Extract Your Subject and Place Them on a New Background
Sometimes you’re sitting on the couch when you’d rather be relaxing on the beach. Don’t worry, Photoshop can help! It has plenty of tools you can use to extract your backgrounds. Be sure to watch the video to your left to see how this is all done, but here’s a look at a few tools you can use to help extract your backgrounds cleanly.
Personally, my favorite tools for extracting backgrounds are the Polygonal Lasso and the standard Eraserbecause they give you a lot of control over the exact edges. The Polygonal Lasso can be found by clicking on the standard Lasso tool in the toolbar and holding down to reveal your other options. It works by clicking points along the edge of the subject you want to extract to slowly create your selection. Basically, it’s like connecting the dots. Each click is a dot and the closer those dots are together the smoother the selection becomes. I like to zoom in and and make a lot of “dots” to get a pretty smooth line, then come in with the Eraser tool and smooth everything out. When you’re using the standard Eraser tool to touch up your selection, it helps to set its opacity to 50% or less. This is so when you erase the edge of your subject you make it transparent rather than remove it entirely. Doing so requires more work but it allows you to create a more realistic edges that blends in better with the background.While the Polygonal Lasso and standard Eraser tools make for a good team, they do take a bit of time to use. If you’re in a hurry and are extracting your subject from a simple background like a solid color (or something close to it), Photoshop has two special tools to expedite this job: the Background Eraser and Magic Eraser. To locate them, just click and hold down on the regular Eraser tool in Photoshop’s toolbar and select the one that you want. The Magic Eraser functions by just clicking the area you want to remove and watching it disappear. This may sound magical, but in reality it tends to leave jagged edges and make poor guesses about what is your background and what is not. The Background Eraser works like the regular Eraser except it only erases the background—or at least it attempts to. You’ll see a + in the middle of your brush and that’s the area you’re targeting to erase. If anything within the brush’s circumference is similar enough to what’s directly inside the crosshairs it’ll get deleted. How does Photoshop know how tolerant to be? Well, there’s a Tolerance setting up in the settings bar at the top of the screen. In fact, there is a tolerance setting for both of these special erases so you can dial them back if they’re eating parts of the photo you ”do not” want to erase.
Once you actually manage to remove the background using whatever tools suit you best, there are a couple of other things you want to keep in mind. You can’t just plop a subject on any photo and expect him/her/it to belong. Chances are the color and light in the photo you extracted your subject from is not going to match the one where you’re placing them. You can use Photoshop’s Color Match adjustment (go to the Adjustments menu and choose Color Match) but, as you’ll see in the video above, it doesn’t always do that great of a job. Opening Curves and trying to match the color and light manually makes a bigger difference.
Even when you match the color well, chances are your subject ”still” won’t look quite at home on his/her/its new background. This is often because if your subject were really, truly there the light from that location would affect them. Now there is quite a bit you have to do to achieve an incredible amount of realism when the lighting on your subject doesn’t look quite right for their new location, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion. One thing you can do to help solve this problem, however, is allow the background to bleed onto the subject a little bit. Here’s how to achieve this effect:
- Control/command-click on your subject’s layer to select him/her/it.
- Go to the Select menu and choose Select Inverse.
- Click on the layer of your background in the Layers panel to choose it.
- Go to the Select menu and choose Refine Edge.
- In the Refine Edge panel, increase the Feather size and move the Shift Edge slider to the right. As you do this you’ll see your selection start to move inward and eat into your subject. When this happens a little bit you’ve done well and can stop. Press OK to accept your refined selection.
- Copy the newly selected area of your background layer and paste it into a new layer on top of your subject. It’ll look kind of weird, like the background has swallowed your subject’s edges. This is okay.
- Reduce the opacity of this new layer to about 20%. This will make everything look pretty normal again, but you’ll have a bit of color from the new background blending in with the edges of your subject much like it would in reality.
While there’s likely a lot more you can do to make your subject look more realistic in their new home, these basics tricks are a good starting point for when you want to transplant people, places, and things to new and exciting locations.
Gmail announced today (Nov. 1) it is rolling out a redesigned interface that users may preview as soon as they see the “Switch to the new look” on their Gmail homepage. Gmail designers have opted for Google’s trademark stripped-down interface along with new ways to customize the layout based on how an individual uses the free email service. The redesign is just that: you’ll have a new layout to learn, but no new features.
Ready to switch? Here are eight key changes that users will experience in the new Gmail. Familiarize yourself now, so that the switch won’t come as a shock.
1. Gmail automatically resizes itself to fit into any sized window. That means that when you adjust the size of a viewing window or use Gmail on different devices with different screen sizes, Gmail will adjust itself for a seamless experience from one display to another.
2. You can adjust display density settings. Choices range from “comfortable,” to show the minimum number of lines, to “cozy” and “compact.” This could be helpful when you change devices, such as reading email on a big-screen laptop, then switching to a smaller-screen tablet. The density control is found in the Settings menu located under the gear icon.
3. Adjust the size of the label and chat panes to suit your use. For instance, if you’re an organizer who uses labels for mail folders in addition to the standard Inbox, Starred and Sent, you can make that pane larger and hide Chat altogether. Alternately, chatterers can expand the size of their Chat list to show more contacts and fewer labels.
4. The labels themselves have more prominence in the new layout. They’re placed in the front of the subject line to make follow-up more efficient. Labels go beyond Google’s star system and can be created to group emails by topic or to indicate an action such as “To Do.”
5. Gmail has added new themes that include high-resolution imagery supplied by iStockphoto for HD displays. If you’ve been using a theme background, your old theme will be imported when your account is moved to the new design. Themes can be viewed under the Settings menu.
6. Conversation threads have been reorganized for improved readability. Instead of stacking emails in a thread making identification impossible until the user opens the stack, Gmail has redesigned conversations in a visible, horizontal format, which could be the most useful redesign element in the new Gmail.
7. Each email in a thread also displays the sender’s profile photo whenever available. This feature makes it quicker to identify different participants in a thread.
8. Gmail now boasts an all-in-one advanced search box. The box contains the same features as the old Gmail advanced search , but laid out in a vertical format that fits with the new design. Users can also create a mail filter within the advanced search box, eliminating the need to open an additional window.
Bottom line: Change always takes some getting used to. The redesign should be available to Gmailers over the next several days. How long that window of choice will remain is unknown, but at some point Google will flip the switch for stragglers. Better to turn on the new format sooner than later— you’ll have more time to adjust.
Its a known fact that keyboard shortcuts can improve your experience with Windows. They help you save time and work more efficiently. Everyone knows the basic copy and paste shortcuts but there is more to Windows that Ctrl+C & Ctrl+V.
Lets have a look at some simple windows keyboard shortcuts that are useful in everyday operations. Starting with some common shortcuts and moving on to the lesser known ones.
- Win+L - Everyone working in a company should know this one. It locks you computer so that the password (if applicable) has to be entered to unlock it.
- Win+M - Minimize all windows and show desktop
- Win+Pause/Break - Show system properties. This is an extremely useful command if you work in a technical support.
- Win+ArrowKeys - Allows you to resize, minimize and maximize windows.
- Win+1,2,3 - Opens the programs in quicklaunch or those pinned to taskbar in Windows 7. Can also be used to switch to those programs.
- Win+Alt+1,2,3 - If there are multiple windows of the same type this allows you to select the one you want from the jump list.
- Win+B - This selects items in the system tray.
- Win+T - Similar to Alt+Tab except shows the previews of windows (Similar to hovering mouse over icon). Press Space or Enter to select.
- Win+Home - Maximise all windows
- Alt+Esc - Similar to Alt+Tab except this does not have any overlay switches to windows in the order they were opened.
- Ctrl+Esc - Substitute for the windows key to open start menu.
- Alt+Space - Open windows system menu for the program.
- Alt+Enter - View properties for selected item.
- Shift+F10 - Shows the right click options for selected item.
- Ctrl+Shift+N - Make new folder.
- Win+G - Cycle between windows gadgets.
- Win+X - Windows Mobility Center
- Ctrl+W - Close a tab in browsers and many other programs.
- Ctrl+T - Open a new tab.
- Shift+Ctrl+T - Reopen a closed tab
- F6 - Cycle different parts of the program (Useful to get to the address bar).
- Shift+Ctrl+N - Google Chrome, start private browsing (for when you are looking at things you arent supposed to at work)
DeviantART user hameddanger has created two beautiful transformation packs for Windows 7. For those who are not aware, transformation packs are a collection of skins, icons, hacks and mods packaged into a self executing installer that modifies the appearance of the operating system. Transformation packs usually replaces system files to achieve this, so they cannot be switched from one style to another the way it’s possible with Windows 7 themes, without uninstalling the transformation pack. The upside of this is that, the transformation is generally total – everything from mouse cursors, to sound schemes and icons are changed.
The two new transformation packs are Android Skin Pack and Mango Skin Pack, that changes the look and feel of Windows 7 to Google Android and Windows Phone Mango, respectively. Both packs support Windows 7 and Windows 7 SP1 and is available for both 32-bit and 64-bit editions.
Android Skin Pack – Download
Mango Skin Pack – Download
Good news for all the Gmail users as here is the extra bit for your emails now. Creative minds behind the Gmail are offering users an easy way to make the whole inbox offline. Which means you will be able to access and send emails offline.
This new feature will be quite helpful for those who access their inbox from various Gadgets or desktop Gmail client. Now we all can access our previous emails offline while we will be able to send emails as well.
All emails sent offline will be stored in outbox, untill any web connection is available. Once it get connected it will be sending all the emails from outbox.
How to Setup Offline Gmail Inbox Settings
To get started with making your emails offline simply click gear icon in the upper-right and select Mail settings at the top of the Gmail page.
Click on Offline tab to configure the settings. Remember at this time you should have downloaded gears to work out with this situation, else Gmail will prompt you to download it first. If downloaded you have allow the permissions to access your inbox for download all email data.
Depending upon the size of your inbox all emails will be downloaded and will be available for an instant access. You can also pause the downloading at any time.
Note: Offline Gmail works only on Microsoft Internet Explorer versions 7.0, 8.0 and Mozilla Firefox versions 3.0 to 3.6. This feature will be soon available with Chrome users only, as google has depreceted the Google Gears which was available with other browsers as well.
With the intention of simplifying developers job Microsoft has introduced autorun previously known as autoplay feature in Windows 95. Autorun is used to simplify the application installation for non-technical users when they insert the removable devices, unfortunately autorun has been hugely exploited by virus and malware creators by creating viruses and warms which spreads through USB autorun script.
With the availability of wide variety of USB based storage devices it becomes abstruse to protect from autorun viruses. To help those non tech savvy users here is simple but effective tool. USB Protector which not only protects you from USB autorun viruses with preemptive monitoring but also removes & cleans infected USB storage drivers.
USB Protector provides a Realtime Scanning mechanism (RTS) so that malwares are detected on time whan a removable storage drive is attached. It can detect and eliminate malwares automatically and provides a full scan of the drive to find hidden files.
Once you install USB Protector it will be automatically added to startup list so it can run every time windows reboot. The UI of USB Protector is not cluttered with many options and provides minimum required options such as Scan and Analyse Drive.
If you have already connected removable USB storage device to PC you can just hit scan option to initiate USB drive scanning.
USB protector will list any autorun or infected files are found in USB. USB protector is still in beta mode and final version is yet to be released. USB Protector supports Windows XP, Vista & Windows 7.
Please Note: You must have .Net Framework 3.0 or higher installed in order to use USB Protector.
The sole reason of Microsoft providing Windows 7 Starter and Home Basic editions is to enable manufacturers to produce low end netbooks which costs less than $200, to keep this netbooks competitive Microsoft has developed Windows 7 Starter and home basic editions with reduced functionality which requires less resources and processing power which these types of netbooks lacks, at the same time keeping Windows 7 experience high for end users.
Though not all netbooks has scarcity of processing power or RAM, infect some of high end netbooks are quite powerful, enough to compete with regular laptops and desktop. On those netbooks users may wont to enjoy all the feature of Windows 7 including Aero effect. Unfortunately there is no easy way to do that.
Personalization Panel (Aero Patch) is a lightweight utility that was designed in order to provide you with a simple means of activating advanced Windows visual features. After applying this patch, Windows 7 Home Basic and Starter editions will be able to displayAero Glass effects and themes.
Running this utility will automatically restart your system to apply the changes. However, before deploying it you have to deactivate the antivirus to allow the registry and system file modifications. If you want to revert the changes, simply run the executable again.