NAPS2 Scanning Software

For years I’ve been using ScanWiz for scanning documents, but it hasn’t been updated since 2012 and I’ve been having some issues using it with the latest Window 10 OS. Since last year, I’ve been using PaperScan Pro made available free during the coronavirus pandemic (until April 2021). This no longer works now, although you can still get a limited free version.

Needing to scan some personal documents I stated looking for some open-source software that would do the job using the helpful website Alternative To. I came across NAPS2 and it’s just what I needed. Check it out for yourself 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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Olympus WS-852 Digital Recorder

I’ve been thinking about adding audio to my blog posts, and looking at various stereo digital recorders. One of the recommended recorders (under £100) was the Olympus WS-852, so I was highly delighted when I found it on Amazon for only £33.50 (a reduction of over 50%) on a special limited time deal.

Once I’ve got used to using it, I’ll probably record myself reading some poetry, and parts (or all) of my Sunday devotionals. I’ll process the recordings (if necessary) using Audacity, but I’ll be grateful for advice from anyone used to working with audio files on blogs.

Apocalypse (Jack Hertz)

Jack Hertz has been composing and recording for more than thirty years. He’s fascinated by all aspects of creating sound, from the earliest instruments to the present day hardware and software innovations. I’ve been listening to his albums for many years now, and one of his albums (released in two versions) features one of my photos (see note below).

His January 2021 album Apocalypse: Lifting of the Veil is one of my favourites of the year, comprising eight imaginative soundscapes. You can see all my favourite albums of 2021 by clicking here.

An apocalypse is a revelation: seeing something which has been hidden. It comes from the Greek word, Apokálypsis, which means “lifting of the veil”, or finding out something secret. Often this secret is discovered in a dream or a vision. Bandcamp

Note: The album, with my photo on the cover, mentioned above is available in two versions, Gilded Skies and Gilded Sky (click on the links).

Windows 10 Preview 21292.1000

I’ve just updated my Windows 10 laptop with this pre-release build of Windows 10 via the Windows Insider Program. It’s a chance to try out new features before the normal release date of significant updates to the Windows 10 operating system (see here for more information).

When it first loaded there was initially little to distinguish it from my existing version, just the information in the bottom right-hand corner of the desktop (shown above) and a weather icon and text on the taskbar. The latter expands to show various other information (which you can customise), but I like a minimalist taskbar and so I soon got rid of it. If you like these kind of features, you might find it useful.

Geeks (like me) can find more information here.

Windows Insider Program

I hope you always make sure your Windows (or other operating system) laptop or device is always up-to-date with software updates, and that you install them when prompted to do so. Yes, I know they can sometimes cause problems, but so far I’ve never had an update problem. Far better to have an up-to-date device with all the latest security updates, at least that’s what this geek believes.

I’ve recently taken it a step further, starting to live a little dangerously, although not as dangerously the options allow. I’ve joined the Windows Insider Program which gives you the option to receive preview Windows 10 builds, so you get the new features first with an opportunity to send feedback to Microsoft. Because they are pre-release builds there is more likelihood of problems, but again I haven’t had a problem yet.

I registered on the Windows website and chose the ‘recommended’ option in [Settings] which is the middle of three. Why not have a go yourself?

13/01/21 Update: I’ve switched to the ‘Dev Channel’ option in [Settings].

See also: Windows 10 Preview 21292.1000

LibreOffice: A Free Office Suite

The best free office suite just got even better as LibreOffice 7 was released recently. It’s the nearest you’ll get to Microsoft Office without having to pay a penny, and the latest version is even more compatible to it than previous versions.

LibreOffice includes several applications that make it the most versatile Free and Open Source office suite on the market: Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (databases), and Math (formula editing). Source.

So, if you don’t want to pay for Microsoft Office and like to use software installed on your computer (rather than in the cloud) this might be for you. There’s also a portable version that you can run directly from a USB flash drive, and you can even install it on your Chromebook.

Note: I currently use both LibreOffice and Microsoft 365 (as Microsoft Office is now called) because a subscription to the latter includes OneDrive cloud storage.

77 Million Paintings (Brian Eno)

During the five years I lived in Wallsend I was looking for this, but could never find it. I finally found it after moving to Norton in July this year following my retirement. What is it, you ask?

Brian Eno is one of my heroes. He’s a creative, a musician, a thinker, an innovator, an artist, a music producer – someone with a finger in many pies, who always produces something new and meaningful.

What I was looking for was 77 Million Paintings (released in 2006) – a book, a digital art computer program and a DVD. It was an evolutionary work in Brian Eno’s exploration into light as an artist’s medium and the aesthetic possibilities of generative software. This piece utilises the computer’s unique capacity as a generating processor to produce original visual compounds out of a large quantity of hand-painted elements, along with similarly produced music. I’m pleased I finally found it.

The release consists of two discs, one containing the software that creates the randomised music and images that emulate a single screen of one of Eno’s video installation pieces. The other is a DVD containing interviews with the artist. The title is derived from the possible number of combinations of video and music which can be generated by the software, effectively ensuring that the same image/soundscape is never played twice. Wikipedia.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.

Steady – Breathing Exercises App

screenshot-play.google.com-2020.06.11-21_02_25

There’s a lot of anxiety and other mental health concerns around at the moment related to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, and so anything that can help us is welcome.

Steady is an Android app that I’ve started using on my smartphone. I recently came across this recommended app in a magazine and expected to have to pay for it, but it’s free with no adverts.

Breathing exercises are a really helpful way of relieving anxiety and stress, and this app helps you tackle your anxiety. It also provides daily reminders and encouragement for hitting monthly goals and the like.

Note: I’ve discovered there’s also a free app (Insomnia) to help you sleep, this can be accessed via the above app.

Update January 2021: Although I’d been using this app regularly, it failed to work after an Android OS update, so now I’m using the equally excellent Breathly app.

Essential Chromebook Apps

focused woman browsing laptop on windowsill
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.