Reading List in Google Chrome

How do you save web pages you want to read later?

Until recently I’d been saving web pages in a variety of places, including Facebook and Twitter bookmarks. I still use those, but now I’ve become better organised. Sites I visit regularly are bookmarked in Google Chrome (so they synchronise across all my devices) with my top sites on the favourites bar as icons only.

I don’t know how long Google’s [Reading list] has been available, but I’ve only recently discovered it. If it’s not showing you can activate it after typing the following command into the address bar and pressing [Enter]. You can also use the same command to disable it.

chrome://flags/#read-later

Anything I want to read later now gets saved into my [Reading list] by bookmarking and choosing that option. Most recent pages are saved to the top of the list and get moved to the bottom of the list (below a divider) when you’ve read them. You can then delete them, keep for future reference, or transfer to another bookmarking service.

For long-term bookmark storage I use Pocket, which I’ve written about here.

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Google Photos (OCR)

I’ve been using Google Photos for ages, but it was only recently that they added an optical character recognition feature. Basically, if you take a photo of text on your smartphone, check it out in the Google Photos app or (after it’s been uploaded and synchronised to the cloud) computer web browser and you get the option to optically scan the text in the photo and convert it to editable text. It will even read it aloud for you.

While we’re on the subject of Google and text, there’s also another app that’s very useful, one that I use all the time. One of the features of Google Keep is that you can record audio notes that are automatically transcribed into text. It’s remarkably accurate and useful for those times when you have an idea and are unable to type. I used it for this blog post and it required minimal editing to finish it off.

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Microsoft Editor

Like me, many of you will probably have been using Grammarly to check your spelling and grammar across the web, it was (and still is) certainly a useful tool. But, there’s a new kid on the block, namely Microsoft Editor.

Previously, I had Grammarly installed as an extension in Google Chrome (my browser of choice) until Microsoft’s editor came along. It works in the same way, checking your spelling and grammar in real time. Initially, it wasn’t as good, but it’s now been developed and is equal to Grammarly (if not better).

If you have Google Chrome synchronisation activated, it also works across all your devices and platforms.

My only contact with Grammarly now is via emails from them telling me I haven’t done any writing recently, and how they miss me. I must unsubscribe.

Essential Chromebook Apps

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Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

When I first got my Chromebook I downloaded loads of apps, but I’ve deleted many of them because you can do most things you want in the Google Chrome browser.

Amazon Prime Video and Netflix: Although you can watch movies and TV series in the browser, there are some apps that work better as apps and these are two that I do use. Other content providers are available.

Chrome Canvas: This is an excellent, and possibly little-known, drawing app that comes with the Chrome OS. Yes, you can use it in a browser on any operating system, but there are advantages of using the app on a Chromebook, not least the fact that the app defaults to full screen.

JotterPad: This is a wonderful distraction-free notepad app that I use on my smartphone and tablet as well as on my Chromebook. It’s free, but does have in-app purchases. Two of these are one-off payments to unlock extra features, but if you want to connect to a cloud services there’s a monthly payment. I’ve paid for the two one-off benefits, but haven’t bothered with the cloud integration as you can easily share the notes manually with other apps and services. There are many adjustments you via settings, so an altogether essential app for me.

Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video Recorder: This is a Chrome browser extension rather than an app, but I include it here because it’s useful on whichever device you use this browser. It does what it says on the tin with many different options.

Photoshop Express & Snapseed: Everyone knows about Photoshop, and so their app for Android devices is pretty much a must-have. Snapseed is not so well-known, but it’s a neat little photo editing app to have in your Android tool box. Take your pick, or install both.

VLC: This media player is simply essential on any device, make sure you have the app on your Chromebook.

ZArchiver: If you work with ZIP files this is an essential app.

Note: I hope this selection of Chromebook apps is useful to you, and remember the apps can be used on any Android device.

Debunking Chromebooks Myths

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

If you’re having to self-isolate or work from home (or simply not going out so much) in the current coronavirus pandemic you might be considering some new computer equipment. A Chromebook is an excellent choice, but you might have some reservations or even believe some of the myths.

For a start, Chromebooks are not just a browser with a keyboard. There’s so many apps (probably the same ones you use on our smartphone) that you can install to do all the things you do on a laptop. You can easily stream music and watch movies, even in full HD if you go for that option. Editing photos is a breeze.

“Ah, but I can’t use Microsoft Office!” Sorry, yes you can! You can use the Microsoft Office Mobile App or Office 365 online, and there’s an app for OneDrive.

You might think that Chromebooks are cheap and not worth buying. Not true. Yes, you get what you pay for, but there are some excellent budget models as well as very high-end ones.

Finally, you might think switching to a Chromebook is complicated. Sorry to disappoint you again, if you can use a laptop and a mobile you can use a Chromebook. You can also access your work on all three and synchronise etc.

Oh, and I didn’t mention that they’re stylish, light, have an incredibly fast start-up time, and a battery charge lasts forever! See also here.

Note: You can also make your own Chromebook from an old laptop, it just won’t have the same battery life etc.

Closer to the Edge

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Having recently posted about the updated Edge browser from Microsoft, here are some of its features that might convince you to try it. It’s being rolled out now and replaces the original Edge released originally with Windows 10. Microsoft is particularly keen to get users of Google Chrome to change, especially in the light of privacy concerns, although I’m not sure if there’s much difference in that respect between huge corporations.

So, the first benefit of Edge is the ability to import browser data from Chrome. In order to get you to switch, Microsoft has made this process as painless as possible with many options when you install Edge for the first time, or you can do it later. You can also synchronise your data across devices (although fairly standard these days) and switch easily between multiple accounts.

One of the criticisms of the original Edge was the lack of add-ons, but now you can install extensions from the Microsoft Store, but (and this is probably a clincher) from the Chrome Web Store. You can also switch between light and dark modes.

There’s easy customisation of the home, new tab pages, and news feed. A built-in task manager enables you to identify and kill resource-hungry processes. You can hear web pages read aloud at different speeds and jump backwards and forwards from one paragraph to another. You can also turn websites into standalone apps and pin sites to the taskbar.

One ‘good news/bad news’ issue is that although Edge is multi-platform, a Linux version will likely to be some time arriving on the scene.

Why not have a go with it? If you alter too many settings, you can easily reset Edge to default settings. Oh, and did I mention, there’s a dark mode!

A great browser from Microsoft?

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“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” is a question posed by Nathanael (a disciple of Jesus) in John1:46. The same question is often directed at Microsoft, and the surprising answer is often yes! Admittedly, Windows 8 was something of a dog’s breakfast, especially because its predecessor Windows 7 was much better, but Windows 10 (there was no Windows 9) is remarkably good in my humble opinion.

However, Microsoft web browsers have never had a good reputation. The old joke went that Internet Explorer was only good for one job, namely downloading the vastly superior Mozilla Firefox (or more recently Google Chrome). But that negative reputation could well be about to change.

Microsoft Edge first came out with Windows 10 and was better than Internet Explorer, but many people again only used it to download Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. So, what’s all the fuss now?

Well, last month (January 2020) Microsoft released an updated version of Edge and it’s being rolled out to users now. It’s totally revamped, Chromium-based, and it looks like they’ve finally got it right – a browser that’s fast, secure, open-sourced and packed with useful features. Some have gone as far as suggesting that it’s as good as, if not better than Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Part 2 of this post Closer to the Edge can be found here.

Make your own Chromebook

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Have you got an old laptop (or netbook) that you don’t know what to do with? Maybe it’s running slowly and driving you to distraction? Perhaps you’ve got your eye on a shiny new laptop, but can’t afford one? Or what about a Chromebook, although you hesitate because you’re not sure?

Well here’s an answer for you! You can turn your old laptop into a Chromebook, give it a whole new lease of life, and it will cost you nothing! Everything is done online with Google apps in the Chrome browser, a bit like using an Android smartphone (and you can synchronise all your devices). I use Windows 10 mainly, but have a spare laptop running CloudReady for ease of use and ‘relative’ portability (it’s a heavy laptop).

You will need to download and install CloudReady onto a USB flash drive, and then use it to boot your laptop. This is a little bit technical, but don’t let that put you off, find a geek to help you (or ask me nicely and buy me a coffee). Then it’s a simple process, all you need is here. The process wipes the laptop, so backup first.

What are you waiting for? Your new FREE Chromebook awaits you!

Note: you can also revive an old laptop with a Linux OS, you can find about it here.

 

Security for Facebook

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My observation of comments on Facebook (and other social media sites) suggest that there is considerable confusion between cloning and hacking.

Cloning does NOT involve someone getting into your account, so your password isn’t compromised. Hacking (on the other hand) DOES mean that someone has gained unauthorised access to your account, and you will need to regain control and change your password.

So cloning a Facebook account is NOT hacking; it’s when someone copies your personal details and tricks your friends and others into thinking it’s you. It can happen because your security settings allow the general public to see your friends list. Cloning can’t be prevented, but it’s less likely if you set the visibility of your friends list to [Friends only].

You can prevent hacking (when your account IS compromised) by setting up two-step verification; this simply involves a verification code being sent to a previously nominated mobile phone when there’s a login attempt from any new browser or device. This way, you are alerted to someone attempting to hack your account before it happens, and can deal with it.

Two-step verification is widely available for many websites.

People often complain about Facebook (and rightly so sometimes), but the tools needed to limit cloning or prevent hacking are already available, and have been for a considerable time. They take very little effort to set up, but may prevent big problems later on.

Spend a few minutes every so often to review your security settings on Facebook and other websites, you know it makes sense.

See also: Spotting Hoaxes and Scams Online