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.

Debunking Chromebooks Myths

acer chromebook on the white desk
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.

Microsoft Office Mobile App

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Until now, if you wanted Microsoft Office on your mobile device you needed an app for each of the individual elements, namely Excel, Word and the like. With the recent release of a great new mobile app, all these have been combined into one app, including Microsoft Office Lens. You can uninstall the individual apps and enjoy a fully-integrated experience.

The apps have been redesigned from scratch and there are some new features, one that I’m finding especially useful is the ability to make notes with simple formatting that synchronise on all your devices. For me, the latter has obviated the need for a separate app I previously used for notes. All in all, an app well worth checking out.

See also: PhotoScan (a favourite app)

Microsoft Office Lens

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Years ago you used a photocopier, more recently scanners became available, firstly on their own and then incorporated into printers. You could also get portable scanners, where the document to be scanned is drawn through the device (I’ve still got one somewhere). But then came along the smartphone.

It’s so easy to snap a document on your mobile these days, and there’s also some great scanning apps available that add a myriad of features. One that I use practically every day is Microsoft Office Lens, usually sending the scanned image straight into Evernote (my note-taking app of choice that is multi-platform and synchronises across all devices). Why not check it out? It’s free, by the way.

Please note: Since posting this, the app has been included in the new Microsoft Office Mobile App which combines all the individual office apps into one.

See also: PhotoScan (a favourite app)

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!

An Unfortunate Geek Fail

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For a while now my¬†Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 has been stuck in a reboot cycle, it restarts for no obvious reason, and is therefore totally useless. I was unable to perform a ‘soft’ factory reset because the tablet restarted before I could get to the appropriate menu item. It was possible to get to the ‘hard’ reset menu by pressing a combination of keys after the tablet had been switched off, but then the factory reset option always failed. I installed Samsung KIES synchronisation and update software on my PC, but again the tablet rebooted before I could connect the two devices. The last option was to reinstall the latest Android operating system from Samsung via Odin software (again on my PC). Sadly, this failed several times (see screenshot above) and so I’ll have to take the tablet to a local service centre in the hope that something can be done that won’t cost too much.

On the plus side though, I found out that PC World were doing a good deal on the Amazon Fire 7″ tablet:¬†16GB plus case plus 64GB microSD card all for ¬£59.99 as a bundle. I’m enjoying using it, the quality isn’t as good as the Samsung (unsurprisingly), but it was a great deal. The only downsides are that they try to sell you lots of stuff (the tablet is basically a shop front) and the tablet won’t let you install Google apps via Play, but there are always workarounds for a geek!

Update: My local service centre unfortunately informed me it was beyond repair.