Ask The Readers: Help me find a new keyboard

For quite a while now I have been using Microsoft’s Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000. I really like the look of the keyboard and it’s relatively small size, but there are a couple of drawbacks. For one, the mouse that came with the keyboard has massive problems with its rechargeable batteries. And while I really love the keys on the keyboard, it’s always a hassle to remove single keys when you want to clean the keyboard. I always fear that I break it in the process. And getting crumbs under the keys is the best way to render it totally unusable. Normally keyboards are not that delicate, alas this one is.

So I have been looking into alternatives. And of course I found a great keyboard pretty fast, but there’s a problem: it’s the Apple Wireless Keyboard. The keyboard looks and feels almost perfect but since it’s meant for Apple computers it’s not really a perfect fit when used with Windows 7. Of course I could get it to work with my PC but there still would be the problem that certain keys are missing. Seriously, I don’t want to live without a Delete key. Using Fn+Backspace instead is just too much hassle. It would be much better if there was a Windows keyboard with a similar look and feel like the one from Apple but with everything needed to run under Windows 7. It doesn’t have to be wireless, but it should be pretty small.

So, what would you guys recommend? Are there any keyboards I should check out?

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Fences

My desktop is usually a mess, covered with a ridiculous amount of desktop icons from shortcuts to folders and various files I downloaded from the net. Finally I found a solution to clean up this mess: Fences.

Fences in action

This handy desktop enhancement by Stardock creates several icon groups called “fences” on the desktop, that automatically sort and organize your desktop icons. All program shortcuts go into the “Programs” fence for example and all folders into the “Folders” fence. There are a couple of pre-included layouts that help to speed up setting up Fences. You can of course add, remove and customize your own fences.

The best thing is: Fences is totally free and runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. Both 32bit and 64bit versions are supported. You can download Fences here.

Trouble with the start menu in Windows 7 RC

Win 7 Start Menu A lot of people are already using the Windows 7 Release Candidate and even though it’s not final, it usually works much better than the release version of Vista for example. But of course each software has bugs and Windows 7 RC is no exception.

Today I encountered a very strange bug, that took me quite some time to fix: Suddenly all the entries in “All Programs” where gone from the Start Menu. Of course I could access all programs by searching for them or clicking on the .exe files in the Explorer, but all entries where gone from the Start Menu itself.

The solution is quite simple: it seems Win 7 RC (I hope they fixed that in the final release version) gets in trouble when there are too many entries in the root of the Start Menu. When you remove or rearrange a few entries in the Start Menu, suddenly all entries under “All Programs” mysteriously reappear.

But, how can you make changes to the Start Menu? That’s easy. You can find all your Start Menu entries in the following Directory:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

Just delete unneeded entries or create a new folder and move a few of the entries in the root of the Start Menu to this folder and voilà, all entries under “All Programs” are back.

Windows Live Writer

When I was on the Windows Live Desktop site to get some info on the new Windows Life Movie Maker I reported about, I noticed that they also released a new version of Windows Life Writer, a desktop blogging tool. I think I gave this software a spin when it was released for the first time and haven’t touched it since then. So, I downloaded the latest version and tried it out.

Windows Live Writer

Writer still uses the classic interface (no ribbon here), which is actually a plus in my book. I am not really comfortable with the ribbon interface after having used to the classic windows interface for many, many years now.

Setting up a blog account was pretty easy. You just enter the blog’s URL and your login data, the software then connects to your blog, downloads the current theme (for preview purposes) and your’re ready to go.

When you write a new post in a comfortable WYSIWYG editor, your editing window looks almost exactly like the post would look on your site. By switching to the preview tab you can see how the new post looks on your site. Alas this didn’t work so well with the theme I use on my RPG blog. But this is a minor issue.

Adding links, pictures, tables, maps and even video is pretty easy. Embedding videos from YouTube or Soapbox is supported for everything else, you will probably edit the source code by hand. Apropos source code: by switching to the source tab you can always edit the posts source code and aside from what I am usually expecting from a Microsoft software, the code is pretty clean.

Adding images works like a charm and they are automatically uploaded to your host. You can even do some minor image manipulation, like adding a drop shadow or rotating the image before you upload it. Very nice!

There is one thing that I am missing: editing older posts. The Writer is a pretty nice offline blog editor but this feature would actually make me use the software regularly. Right now it’s just a nice gimmick, but most of the time I will probably create my posts in WP directly.

Update: Ok, I just found out that you can actually edit older posts, but only the ones you created in Writer. Why they didn’t add the ability to edit all posts is beyond me.

Update #2: Ok, it seems I am still half asleep. You can access and edit all post by clicking on Open. Writer seems to be much more features that I expected! I think it deserves a more closer look.

Windows Live Movie Maker available for Vista and Windows 7

The new and improved version of Windows Movie Maker is now available for free download for all users of Vista or Windows 7. Alas there is no support for Windows XP. The new version of Movie Maker now has the ribbon interface, you probably know from Office 2007 and other Microsoft software.

Windows Live Movie Maker

I haven’t had the time to properly test it, but if you are looking into video editing and haven’t got the funds to get some nice professional software, you might give it a try.
You can download the software from the official Microsoft Windows Live Destop site.

First Look: Postbox

Postbox is a new email client for Windows and OSX that claims to be “better, faster, and more organized”. I have to admit I stopped using desktop email clients a long time ago, but nevertheless I wanted to give Postbox a try, especially since it shares a few features with Google Mail, like conversation views and a powerful search function. Postbox is currently in beta and available for free. You can also buy a full license already which sets you back $39.95, but currently it’s available for a reduced prize of just $29.95. There’s also a family option which allows you to share your license with up to 5 people living in the same household for an additional $9.95.

Postbox running under Windows Vista

Postbox running under Windows Vista

So I downloaded the free beta version and started it. I was greeted by the Account Wizard. I set up my Gmail (IMAP) account and as soon as I closed the wizard, Postbox started downloading the emails. One word of warning: If you have a couple thousand emails in your Gmail inbox, this may take a while.

Account Wizard

Aside from Gmail Postbox supports various other email services like AOL, Windows Live Hotmail, Yahoo and of course every other IMAP or POP3 account. You can also use Postbox as a RSS feed reader or newsgroup client, which is pretty nice, if you want to have it all in one program. I also discovered that Postbox allows you to post to Facebook and Twitter. It seems that today every program needs Twitter and Facebook support.

After a few minutes Postbox was finished downloading and I could check out Postbox features. On the first look Postbox looks like every other email client out there. The first difference you’ll notice will probably be, that a double-click opens emails in a new tab. Having tab support in a email client is pretty cool. Having conversation views sounds good in theory but alas it doesn’t work like I was used from Gmail.

The search function is actually pretty fast (even faster than in Gmail), the search index is generated when your PC is idle. Overall the programmers did a pretty good job. Everything responds pretty fast and I haven’t encountered any major problems so far.

Alas Postbox will not convince me to return to desktop email clients. Although it has a few nice features like an integrated to-do list, the ability to assign topics to emails (they work much like labels in Gmail), tab support and the account wizard, it’s nothing special. But if you like desktop email clients, you should give Postbox a try.