Tuesday 20 January 2015

How to set up your new Chromebook the right way

chromebook detail display hinge

Setting up a new Chromebook is much easier than setting up a PC. Chromebooks don't require major updates or antivirus software. You start simply by signing in with your Google Account (or creating that account, if you don't already have one). 

All that said, Chromebooks have some unique quirks—such as limited offline capabilities, and a wonky method for connecting a printer. Here's everything you need to know to set up your new Chromebook up the right way—starting with the tools that let you replace the Windows software that just won't work on a Googley laptop.

Chromebooks thrive on the web, survive offline

Yes, Chromebooks are primarily conduits to the web. But aside from very specific computing demands, such as high-end gaming or video and image editing, the gap between what a Chromebook can or can’t do is quickly closing. There are a slew ofsuperb, powerful web apps available that can already replace most people's basic desktop software. 
google drive offline
You can still work in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides offline by enabling this feature in the settings.
Adobe is building a Chrome-friendly version of Photoshop, while Microsoft is bringing Skype to the web (and native webRTC-based voice and video chats are already here). The absolutely free Office Online works with traditional Office docs and offers enough features for mainstream users. Some recent initiatives by Humble Bundle and Mozilla hint that a brighter future for web-based gaming.
chrome keyboard help
Pressing Crtl-Alt-? simultaneously can reveal all the secret Chromebook keyboard shortcuts.
The other typical knock on Chromebooks is that they’re not as useful offline. While that's still true to some degree, Google and numerous third-party developers have been working hard to enable offline capabilities in their web apps. The Chrome Web Store (which is the digital storefront for Chrome apps) even features a section dedicated to offline apps. The Chrome App ecosystem has really taken off  in the last year—start by checking out the best we've found. 

Preparing your Chromebook for offline use

Beyond offline Chrome Apps, numerous native Chromebook apps and features can be configured for use away from the web.
For example, Google's Gmail Offline lets you—you guessed it—work with Gmail while offline. Download the app from the Chrome Web Store, then fire it up from the Chrome OS app launcher. You’ll then be asked if you want to save your messages offline. (If you’re signed in to multiple Google accounts, toggle the email address at the bottom to select where to save your email data.) Once enabled, Gmail Offline lets you reply and compose new messages, which are cached and then fired off to the recipient once you're back online.
gmail offline
Install the Gmail Offline app to access your mail when you're not online.
Heavy Google Drive users should head to the settings page (click the wrench icon at the top right) inside Drive to enable offline storage. It will then sync all your docs, sheets, slides, and drawings to your Chromebook. Just like Gmail, it syncs back your changes to the Drive server once you’re reconnected. Be mindful of the limited storage space found in most Chromebooks, however; the files stashed in your Google Drive could easily exceed your Chromebook's capacity. PCWorld's guide to everything Chromebooks can do offline has even more nitty-gritty details.

Set up your Chromebook for printing

Printing from a Chromebook is the most complicated process you'll encounter. You’re in luck if your printer is Google Cloud print ready (Google has an official list). If so, all you have to do is enable Cloud Print on your Chromebook.
To see whether your Chromebook recognizes your printer, simply open the Chrome Settings menu (click the icon that looks like three horizontal bars, or a "hamburger") at the top right corner of the browser window, select Settings, click Show Advanced Settings, and then scroll down to "Google Cloud Print." Under "New Devices" you should see the name of your printer, assuming it’s properly connected to your network. 
google cloud print settings
Google Cloud Print connects your Chromebook to a compatible printer.
If your printer doesn't show up in the list, it may not be Google-Cloud-Print ready, or it could just be having some other connection issue (remember: printers are evil). You may have to dig out that instruction manual or head to the printer’s specific help page. Google also has a support site that may point you in the right direction.
If your printer isn't Cloud-Print-enabled, the only way to print stuff from your Chromebook is to connect your printer to a Mac or Windows PC, install Cloud Print on that as well as your Chromebook, and then tie it all your Google account. Whew! Here are Google's specific directions on how to do that.
The kludgy workaround works well enough, but if you plan to print a lot from your Chromebook, you'll want to spring for a Cloud-Print-enabled printer. Another advantage of Google Cloud Print is that once it’s configured, you can print from any device that can sign into your Google Account.

Chromebook power!

With those basics under your belt, you're ready to rock and roll. For more advanced tricks—such as setting up multi-monitor support, advanced mouse settings, or VPNs—be sure to check out PCWorld's Chromebook power tips.
The beauty of Chromebooks is that after the initial setup, most people will never need to worry about those beefier settings and options—or any other kind of maintenance or management, for that matter. Happy web surfing!

How to install Microsoft fonts in Linux office suites

screenshot from 2014 07 09 20 00 47

Times New Roman, Calibri, and many other popular fonts are created by Microsoft and can’t be included with Linux. If you open a Word document or another Microsoft Office document in LibreOffice or OpenOffice, you’ll need Microsoft’s fonts installed on your Linux system to see the documents as they were intended to look.

You can also use Microsoft’s fonts to create documents of your own, so you can compose a document in Calibri or Times New Roman and save it as a DOCX or DOC file for maximum compatibility with Office.

Install Microsoft’s TrueType Core fonts

Microsoft released a package of “TrueType core fonts for the web” back in 1996. These fonts were given a very permissive license agreement, so anyone could install them. Microsoft wanted their fonts to be the standard fonts everyone with a web browser had, so they gave them away. Microsoft terminated this project in 2002, but the fonts can still be installed thanks to MIcrosoft’s old license agreement.
This font pack contains Andale Mono, Arial, Arial Black, Comic Sans MS, Courier New, Georgia, Impact, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, Verdana, and Webdings. Times New Roman was the default font for Office documents until Calibri debuted in Office 2007.
This package can be easily installed on Ubuntu. Unfortunately, you can’t install it from the Ubuntu Software Center on modern versions of Ubuntu like Ubuntu 14.04. If you try to install this package from the Ubuntu Software Center, the Software Center will freeze—you need to use the terminal so you can accept Microsoft’s License agreement. Don’t worry! This is easy.
First, open a terminal. Click the Ubuntu icon on the dock, search for “Terminal,” and click the terminal shortcut.
screenshot from 2014 07 09 19 06 48
Type or copy-and-paste the following command into the terminal and press Enter. This command asks for administrator access (sudo) before launching the package manager (apt-get) and telling it to download and install (install) the ttf-mscorefonts-installer package:
sudo apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer
Type your password when prompted and press Enter again. When the license agreement appears, use the arrow and Page Down/Page Up keys to scroll through it. Press Tab to select the OK button and press Enter to accept Microsoft’s license agreement. The installer will download the fonts onto your system and configure them so they’re immediately available to applications like LibreOffice and OpenOffice.
screenshot from 2014 07 09 19 08 14
Other Linux distributions also offer similarly named “corefonts” packages you can easily install. Search your Linux distribution’s package manager for such a package.

Install Microsoft’s ClearType fonts

Microsoft added a group of new “ClearType Fonts” to Windows with Windows Vista and Office 2007. These fonts are named Constantia, Corbel, Calibri, Cambria, Candara, and Consolas. Calibri became the default font on Microsoft Word 2007, and it’s still the default font on Word 2013 today.
Microsoft never released these fonts to everyone like they did with the older core fonts. However, Microsoft does make these fonts available to download as part of their free PowerPoint Viewer 2007 application. If you don’t have a Windows system around, you can use a script that downloads the PowerPoint Viewer 2007 application from Microsoft, extracts the six ClearType fonts, and installs them on your Linux system. This script will install the ClearType fonts for just your user account, while the above script installs the TrueType core fonts for every user account on your system.
The fastest, easiest way to do this is with a few terminal commands. These commands are easy-to-use—rather than walk you through clicking many different things, we can just have you copy-and-paste a few commands.
If you haven’t yet installed the TrueType core fonts, you’ll need to run the sudo apt-get install cabextract command to install the cabextract utility on your system. If you installed the Microsoft core fonts using the command above, this should already be installed.
Next, type mkdir .fonts and press Enter to create the fonts directory the script requires. The script will complain that you don’t have a .fonts directory if you don’t do this first.
screenshot from 2014 07 09 19 22 59
Next, copy-and-paste or type the following command into the terminal and press Enter. This command downloads the VistaFonts-Installer script and runs it. The script downloads the fonts from Microsoft and installs them on your system:
wget -qO- http://plasmasturm.org/code/vistafonts-installer/vistafonts-installer | bash

Install Tahoma, Segoe UI, and other fonts

The above two font packages are probably all you’ll need. They’ll give you the standard Microsoft Office fonts, from the older TrueType core fonts like Times New Roman to the newer ClearType Fonts like calibri. These are the standard fonts used in Microsoft Office documents by default.
However, some fonts aren’t included in these packages. Tahoma isn’t included with the TrueType core fonts package, while Segoe UI and other newer Windows fonts aren’t included with the ClearType Fonts package.
screenshot from 2014 07 09 19 50 50
If you have a Windows system lying around, these fonts are fairly easy to install. For example, let’s say you’re dual-booting Ubuntu Linux and Windows. You’ll find your Windows partition in Ubuntu’s file manager. Click the Windows drive in the sidebar to access it. Navigate to the Windows\Fonts directory and you’ll see all the fonts installed on your Windows PC, including the fonts that came with it. Double-click a font and click theInstall button to install it for your user account. You can use this trick to quickly install any other Windows fonts you want, including Tahoma and Segoe UI. In fact, you can even use this trick to install fonts like Times New Roman and Calibri if you have a Windows system.
If you have another Windows computer, you can navigate to the Fonts pane in the Control Panel or open the Fonts folder at C:\Windows\Fonts. Select the fonts you want to use, then drag-and-drop them to a removable drive. You’ll get copies of the fonts in .ttf form. Take the removable drive to your Ubuntu system, double-click each .ttf file you want to install, and click the Install button to install it.
screenshot from 2014 07 09 19 51 05

Configure LibreOffice or OpenOffice

Whether your Linux distribution uses LibreOffice or OpenOffice, configuring your office suite of choice to work with these fonts is easy. If you’ve installed them using any of the instructions above, they’ll already be available to use. If either office suite was open as you installed the fonts, you may have to first close the office suite and re-open it. The fonts will appear as options in the Fonts dropdown box, so you can use them like any other font.
Open a Microsoft Office document created using these fonts and LibreOffice or OpenOffice will automatically use the appropriate fonts. They’ll display the document as it was intended to look, Microsoft fonts and all.
screenshot from 2014 07 09 20 07 36
If you’d like to change your default fonts for new documents, click Tools > Options > LibreOffice Writer or OpenOffice Writer > Basic Fonts (Western). Your office suite of choice will use Microsoft’s fonts as the default fonts in future documents if you choose them here.
Ubuntu and other Linux distributions actually include Red Hat’s “Liberation Fonts” and use them by default in their office suites. These fonts were designed to substitute for Arial, Arial Narrow, Times New Roman, and Courier New. They have the same widths as Microsoft’s popular fonts. If you open a document written with Times New Roman, the appropriate Liberation font will be used instead so the flow of the document won’t be interrupted. However, these fonts don’t look identical to Microsoft’s fonts. The Liberation project also doesn’t provide fonts designed to match the width of Calibri and Microsoft’s other newer ClearType fonts. If you’re a Linux user that wants the best Microsoft Office compatibility possible, you should install Microsoft’s fonts.

How to create and distribute an instructional screencast video for free

Teaching somebody to do something on the computer is always tough. Words go a long way, and pictures are a big help, but nothing can beat the simple immediacy of a video.

Fortunately, it’s never been easier to make and share an instructional video on your PC. Using easy, free software, you can record and publish a high-quality, annotated instructional video in a matter of minutes. In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to get started right away.


The primary difference between a good tutorial and a bad one is preparation. Even if you can do whatever it is you’re demonstrating in your sleep, you’ll make a better, more informative video if you do a little planning in advance.
One of the most important things you’ll need to decide for your video is how you want to handle the verbal content of your guide. Different tutorial videos handle it different ways, but generally speaking you’ve got three choices:
  • Natural recorded audio: Simply record yourself speaking as you record the tutorial. This method is the simplest, and will produce the most natural sounding results. For simple how-to content, and for videos without much editing, this is strongly recommended.
  • Dubbed audio: It’s hard to focus on two things at once. If you’re having a difficult time capturing an audio take that you like while simultaneously recording video of your desktop, consider dubbing the audio in after the fact. Just record your video, do any editing that you want, and then play it back and record yourself talking over the video using a tool like Audacity. Dubbing is also a good choice for videos with lots of cuts, or with other effects such as time-lapse recording.
  • No audio / Subtitled: Quite a few videos on YouTube opt to forgo audio altogether, either relying on YouTube’s annotation feature, using on-screen text (written in a Word document, for instance), or simply letting the actions speak for themselves. Your video will be stronger with audio, but if you don’t have a microphone or just can’t stand to hear your own voice, you can definitely make the no-audio option work.
Whatever you decide, write up a quick outline of the steps you’re going to demonstrate in the video. Even if it’s not very detailed, an outline will improve the pacing of your video, and by printing it out and referring to it as you record, you can minimize awkward pauses. Use your outline to keep the video moving along—a short tutorial is a useful tutorial.


Once you’ve planned out your video, it’s time to actually record it. This article is going to look at the process of recording with CamStudio in depth, but first it should be noted that there are a couple of other good options out there.
First is Camtasia, which is an excellent, professional-quality screen capturing suite that carries a price tag to match. If you need to create video tutorials for your job, or you plan to make this a major hobby, then give the free Camtasia trial a shot. It’s great at what it does, but you’ll have to cough up $300 to keep using it after the first month.
Another great option is OBS, the Open Broadcaster Software, which is free and very powerful. We’ve talked about OBS before in the context of live game screencasting (and for that purpose, it’s the best), but you can also use the program to record video and upload it to YouTube.
That said, we’re going to recommend you go with CamStudio. Like OBS, it’s free, but it offers a more focused set of features that are particularly useful for instructional screencasts.
To get started, visit the CamStudio website and download two files. You’ll need both the CamStudio client as well as the Camstudio Lossless Codec. You’ll find both download links on the CamStudio page, one right above the other. First run the CamStudio installer, then close the program and run the codec installer. With that done, launch CamStudio.
camstudio video settings
CamStudio's video options.
You’ll need to configure CamStudio so that it saves video files that are appropriate for uploading to YouTube. Click on Options -> Video Options. In this options screen, click on the dropdown menu under Compressor, and select CamStudio Lossless Codec. If you don’t change the compressor, CamStudio will save video files that are way too big to upload to YouTube. Also, change the Framerates fields to 20 milliseconds and 50 frames/second. This will make for a smoother video. Click Ok.
camstudio cursor settings
CamStudio's cursor options. (Click to enlarge.)
Next, we recommend clicking on Options -> Cursor Options, and checking the boxes marked “Highlight Cursor” and “Enable Visual Click Feedback.” These settings, which make your mouse movements easier to follow, are very useful for instructional videos.
Finally, you need to tell CamStudio what part of your screen you’ll be recording. You can record your whole screen, just a particular window, or specify a particular region that you want to record, all from the Region dropdown menu at the top of the client.
In general, you should use the smallest region possible that demonstrates what you’re doing in context. Think of a smaller capture region as being more “zoomed in,” which can be useful for demonstrating anything that’s especially fiddly or complicated.
If you want to capture a particular region, but then change that region in real-time while you’re recording (if your tutorial shows how to do something using two separate programs, for instance), there are two ways to do that in CamStudio.
First, you can click on Region -> Fixed Region, then check the box labelled “Drag Corners to Pan.” This will allow you to manually drag the capture region around your desktop whenever you want to change the video’s focus. The second option is to click onOptions -> Enable Autopan. This will make the capture region follow your cursor around automatically. It can be a handy effect, but beware of setting the autopan speed too high—your video will be hard to follow if the frame jumps around too fast, and due to how the lossless compressor works, the filesize will increase substantially.
You can customize these settings further, but CamStudio should be ready to record perfectly serviceable video and audio. Just click on the record button to begin.


Once you’re done recording, click the blue square to stop, and save the file to your hard drive. If you used the video settings we described, and kept your run time down, you should have a small, manageable file. Head to the YouTube website, log in with a Google account, and click on the big Upload button in the upper right hand corner.
Select your video file and give it descriptive title and info fields. Make sure to include every relevant tag you can think of in the tags field, which will make it easier for people to find your video. Click “Done” when you’re finished, and you’ll receive a permanent link to the video page for your tutorial.
youtube processing
YouTube's image processing interface.
Before you call it a day, there’s one other thing you might want to do. Visit your video’s page on YouTube and click the annotations button (it looks like a speech bubble) beneath the playback window. You’ll see the annotations tool, which provides a very simple interface for adding text annotations and overlays to a video. If you chose not to record audio, this is an excellent way to include useful information along with the video how-to.
Just advance the video playback window to wherever you want to include the annotation, click the New Annotation button, pick a message type, and enter the text you want to appear on your video. To choose how long the annotation will be displayed for, just click and drag on either edge of the annotation in the timeline view at the bottom of the screen.
youtube annotations
YouTube's annotation options.
Even if you did record audio, annotations are great for including additional information, making corrections and promoting other videos you’ve recorded. If you want to make your video useful to more people, note that Google provides a subtitles tool, located one tab to the right of the annotations tool. In addition to making your video more accessible to the hearing-impaired, subtitles allow non-English-speaking viewers to see auto-translated subtitles for your tutorial.
And that’s it! If you’ve followed along, your video should be more useful than 90 percent of the stuff floating around the internet, and will be a big help to anyone who finds it. Spread the link, and start planning for your next how-to.

How to teach contact names and relationships to Siri and Google Now

ios contacts remember name

Picking up your phone and saying "Call my dad" or "Call Ted" (meaning Ted your boss, not that random Ted fellow you met five years ago) should work like magic.

All too often, though, both Siri (on iOS) and Google Now (on Android phones) will do a double-take, asking "Who's Dad?" or "Which Ted did you mean?"
Even worse, it might mistake "my dad" for another name in your contact book and start dialing—and at that point, you'll probably be wondering why you didn't skip the fancy voice commands and simply tap your way to your phone favorites.
With a little work on your part, you can teach Siri and Google Now the nicknames and relationships of the most important people in your life, from your loving spouse or parents to your closest (or most demanding) colleagues.
Once your iPhone or Android phone knows who your dad is—or that "Ted" means your boss, not Ted whatshisname—using voice commands for phone calls will feel a lot more magical.

For Android

Of the few different ways to add nicknames and relationships to contacts, the easiest is to simply tell Google Now via voice command.
  • Open Google Now (slowly swipe up from the bottom of the screen, or tap the home-screen Google search box), tap the microphone icon (or just say "OK Google" if you've enabled this setting, and say "[name of your spouse] is my [husband or wife]," or "[name} is my [boss]."
  • Assuming it heard you loud and clear, Google Now will go ahead and assign those labels to the person you named.
Want to add relationships with a bit more precision, or want to give one of your contacts a nickname? Try this:
  • Launch the People app on your Android device, open a contact card, tap the three-dot menu button in the top corner of the screen, then tap Edit.
  • Tap Add another field, tap Nickname, then fill in the blank, either with an actual nickname or the contact's relationship to you, such as "boss" or "sister." (Yes, both the People app and Gmail have an actual "Relationship" field, but filling it in won't do any good as far as voice commands are concerned.)
  • Is Google Now—or are you, for that matter—having trouble with a tongue-twister of a name? Tap Add another field, then select "Phonetic name" to make life (and voice recognition) a little easier.
Adding nicknames and relationships from your PC or Mac is easy, too.
  • Fire up your favorite web browser, open the Gmail account associated with your Android device, then select "Contacts" from the pull-down menu in the top-left corner of the page.
  • Search for and then open the contact you want to edit, tap the Add button at the bottom of the contact card, select "Relationship, "Nickname," or "Phonetic name," and fill in the blanks.

For iOS

The easiest of several ways is this one: 
  • Click and hold the Home button on your iPhone or iPad to launch Siri, then say "[name of contact] is my [husband, wife, boss]."
  • After thinking about it a moment, Siri will ask to confirm the relationship. Done and done.
Here's how to do the same thing using the iOS keypad:
  • Open the Contacts app, tap your own contact card, then tap the Edit button.
  • Scroll down to the "Add related name" field, tap it, select a relationship (like "spouse" or "manager"), then type a name, or tap the little "i" to choose a contact from the iOS address book.
  • Does Siri need help recognizing the names of your friends, colleagues and loved ones? Find one of their contact cards in the Contacts app, scroll down to the "add field" button, then tap it to add a phonetic name or a nickname.
If you use iCloud to store your contacts, you can edit your relationships, nicknames and phonetic name from a web browser.
  • Log into iCloud.com, click the Contacts icon. Search for a contact card, then click the Edit button.
  • Click the Add Field button to add a phonetic first or last name, a nickname, or a "related" person.
Finally, Mac users can use the Mac's Contact app to add nicknames and relationships in pretty much the same way—assuming you're using iCloud to sync your contacts on your Mac, of course.
  • Launch the Contacts app on your Mac, open a contact and click the Edit button.
  • Click the little + button in the bottom corner of the contact card, select More Fields, then pick Phonetic First/Last Name, Related Name, or Nickname.