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Create, extract and edit archive files with 7-Zip

For decades now, we have been compressing files and folders to make them smaller to attach to an e-mail or archive. I have used many archiving programs over the years, but the best one I have found is 7-Zip.

The 7-Zip File Manager

7-Zip is one of the most straightforward archiving programs I have ever used. It can work with a ton of different file types and has a high compression rate.

7-Zip can create several different archive files, including ZIP, TAR, and of course, 7z. And it can also open over thirty (30) other archive formats, including CAB, DMG, ISO, and RAR.

The 7-Zip File Manager is straightforward to use and has a ton of features. Besides being able to create and open archive files, it can also edit them, including splitting and combining archive files.

But the best feature is the right-click context menu. You can right-click on some files or folders and quickly create an archive file from them (7z or ZIP).

The 7-Zip right-click context menu

Or you can right-click on an archive file and quickly open, extract or test it. And the cool thing is you can edit the functions that the right-click menu can perform.

7-Zip is an open-source program that began over twenty years (20) ago and is still going strong. It has been translated into over ten (10) different languages, including French, Spanish, and German.

7-Zip is available in either 32 or 64-bit versions and can run on all Windows versions from Windows XP and up. And it is free to use for either personal or commercial use.

For more information on 7-Zip, follow the link below.

7-Zip

Synchronize folders and files on your Windows computer with Allway Sync

Are you looking for an easy way to synchronize your files to another computer on your network? Or maybe you want to sync to an external drive or the cloud. If so, then take a look at Allway Sync by Botkind.

Synchronize folders and files on your Windows computer with Allway Sync

For years now, I have been using synchronization programs to make an exact copy of my files on network drives and external devices. Over ten years ago, Microsoft released a straightforward file synchronization program called SyncToy.

But Microsoft dropped support for SyncToy a few years ago, and eventually, it stopped working correctly. That is when I started looking for another synchronization application and found Allway Sync.

Windows 10 does have a built-in file sync program called File History, but it is pretty basic. With File History, you can sync to a network folder or external drive, but not to the cloud.

On the other hand, Allway Sync can sync to a local or network folder, FTP / SFTP server, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and several different cloud storage types. You can even sync to a single archive file.

The user interface inside of Allway Sync
The user interface inside of Allway Sync

The user interface is simple to use and easy to understand. The sync options are quite extensive and include data compression and encryption. You can set up multiple sync jobs and customize each job to meet your needs.

The sync job options menu inside of Allway Sync
The sync job options menu inside of Allway Sync

The options for sync jobs include synchronization rules, automatic synchronization, inclusion and exclusion filters, file versioning, error handling, and custom actions.

I have several clients that use synchronization software for backing up files. The primary reason is that files can be recovered quickly, as they do not have to be decrypted. Just copy the file you want to be recovered back to the original folder.

Allway Sync is free for personal use, with a limit of 40,000 files per 30 day period. But for unlimited file synchronization, purchasing a Pro license is recommended. FYI - A pro license is not that expensive (under $30).

There are a couple of different editions of Allway Sync, a desktop edition for installing on desktops, laptops, and servers. There is also an edition, Allway Sync 'n' Go, a portable version for installing on external drives.

Allway Sync comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions compatible with Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, and Windows Server 2019. They even have versions that will run on Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

For more information on Allway Sync by Botkind, click on the link below.

Allway Sync by Botkind

Create and edit text-based files with Notepad++

When it comes to editing text-based files, everyone has used Windows built-in text editor Notepad. But it is pretty basic and has very few features. If you are looking for a program that can do more than edit text files, take a look at Notepad++.

Create and edit text-based files with Notepad++

Notepad++ (Notepad plus plus) is a text/code editor based on the open-source editing component Scintilla and can be customized to a user's needs. It has an impressive list of built-in features like syntax highlighting, code folding, and extensive find and replace functions.

It includes support for over seventy (70) programming languages like HTML, JavaScript, and Visual Basic. Notepad++ can also record macros so that it can speed those repetitive commands.

Now one of the great features of Notepad++ is its customizability. You can completely change the way it looks and feels, from the font used to the background color; you can make it just the way you like it.

Screenshot of Notepad++ with the black board theme
Notepad++ with the black board theme

You can edit the shortcuts for the pull-down menus, macros, run commands, plugin commands, and Scintilla commands with the shortcut mapper. You can even edit the right-click context menu.

Screenshot of the shortcut mapper inside of Notepad++
Notepad++ shortcut mapper

But the best feature is the extension capacity using third-party plugins. Over 90 (ninety) plugins are available for Notepad++, including all sorts of coding tools and a spell checker.

Notepad++ comes in both 32 and 64-bit versions, and there are two ways to install it; the automatic installer or the portable stand-alone version. You can even modify the registry and use Notepad++ instead of Notepad, but you will have to go through the user manual to find the code.

And the best thing about Notepad++ is that it is free, but you can donate to the author to help support future releases. For more information on Notepad++, follow the link below.

Notepad++

How to get a free Windows 10 upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

Updated May 15, 2020

Many people took advantage of the Get Windows 10 upgrade promotion, and some did not. If you are one of those who did not get your version of Windows 7 / Windows 8.1 upgrade for free, you still have an opportunity to do so. Here is how to get a free Windows 10 upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

How to get a free Windows 10 upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1

It has been a few years since Microsoft ran the Get Windows 10 promotion, and now you think you might like to get your version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 upgraded to Windows 10. The question is now, should you upgrade your computer to Windows 10?

If you think so, I will let you know a little secret. You can still get the upgrade for free. But there is a particular way you have to go about doing it. And there are some prerequisites you have to meet first.

First, your computer needs to be running a legally licensed, not pirated version of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1. The key here is running, as you will need to start the upgrade process from inside of Windows. In essence, you will perform what we call an in-place upgrade.

And since this is an in-place upgrade, you will need to know what edition of Windows you have. Just open a Run dialog box, type Winver and left-click on OK. It will list the Windows edition in the About Windows screen that appears. Here are the upgrade paths.

  • If you have Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, or Windows 8.1 Home Basic, you will upgrade to Windows 10 Home.
  • If you have Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, or Windows 8.1 Professional, you will upgrade to Windows 10 Professional.
  • If you have Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 8.1 Enterprise, you will upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise.

Second, your computer needs to meet the hardware requirements for Windows 10. Most computers running Windows 7 / 8.1 already meet the requirements, but there are exceptions. There are specific graphics processors known to be incompatible.

But the only way you will find out is by starting the upgrade process. The Windows 10 installer will run a check for hardware that will not work with Windows 10 and will allow you to stop the upgrade or continue.

If it turns out that the on-board graphics processor in your desktop computer is incompatible, you can always install an inexpensive (under $50) PCI-e graphics card (if you have an open PCI-e slot). Here is how to add an expansion card to your desktop computer. If your laptop has an incompatible graphics processor, you cannot upgrade it to Windows 10.

But there are a few things I recommend doing before starting the upgrade process. Checking for drive errors, cleaning up your drive, and uninstalling third-party anti-virus/malware software are just a few. And I recommend creating a full backup only in case something goes wrong. Just follow steps #2 through #6 in this article, seven things to do before and after upgrading to Windows 10.

Now there is a dirty little secret about upgrading to Windows 10 that nobody ever talks about, and that is the recovery media. Almost every computer comes with a hidden partition that has the original software that came pre-loaded with the machine.

When you perform an upgrade to Windows 10, the setup program will replace it with a copy of Windows 10. So, if you ever want to go back to the Windows version that came with your computer, you will need to create the recovery media before doing the upgrade. Check out the section 'Make the recovery media' in the following article, five things you should do first when you get a new computer.

Now, you have everything you need to take care of, and you are ready to start the Windows 10 upgrade. Since this will be an 'in-place upgrade', you will need the Windows 10 installation media. Let's make it.

The first thing you have to do is download and run the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. This program can do a direct upgrade or create the Windows 10 media (USB or ISO file).
Windows 10 installer what do you want to do screen
I recommend creating the media (either USB or ISO). That way, you will have a copy of Windows 10, just in case you need it in the future.

The next thing you need to do is select what language, architecture, and edition you want to install.
Windows 10 installer select language and edition screen
If the Use the recommended options for this PC checkbox is on the bottom, make sure it has a checkmark inside it. If not, refer to the edition information you collected earlier.

You will need either a blank DVD or a USB drive that is 8GB or larger. The Windows 10 Media Creation Tool will format a USB drive and make it ready to use.
Windows 10 installer choose which media to use screen
If you download an ISO file, you will need to burn it to a DVD. Here is how to burn an ISO file to a disk.

There are a couple of reasons to install from media (USB or DVD) and not the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. The #1 reason is you can always restart the installation if you need to take care of an issue or two.

Once you have the installation media created, you will have to start the upgrade by running the setup program located at the root of the installation media.
Windows 10 setup program in File Explorer
I recommend opening File Explorer and right-clicking on setup.exe and selecting Run as administrator.

The first screen that appears tells you that Windows 10 is going online to get updates, drivers, and optional features.
Windows 10 setup program prompting to download updates
If you click on the Change how Windows Setup downloads updates link, you can choose to download the updates or wait until later.
Windows 10 setup program update download options
You will be downloading the updates either way, so it is strictly your call. But I have found that a lot of the errors associated with the upgrade process can be avoided by waiting until the upgrade is complete before downloading and installing updates.

At some point, the installation will check the hardware and software installed. If it finds any incompatible software, like an anti-virus program, you may have to cancel the upgrade and remove the software.

If the installation finds incompatible hardware, you may have to cancel the upgrade to resolve the issue. Either way, you may be able to continue the update, but that depends on how critical the Windows 10 installer finds the software/hardware issue to be.

Once the upgrade is in process, it may take a couple of hours to complete. When the Windows 10 upgrade is complete, the original product key for your old version of Windows will be converted and uploaded to the cloud. It is called digital entitlement.

And if you ever need to reinstall Windows 10, all you have to do is download the latest version using the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. It is the one Windows 10 feature you hope you never have to use.

Check your e-mail and more with Mozilla Thunderbird

Updated May 20, 2020

Are you looking for an e-mail program that has a ton of features? One that has a calendar, task scheduler, and can handle multiple e-mail addresses? Then look no further than Mozilla Thunderbird.

Check your e-mail and more with Mozilla Thunderbird

You probably have heard of Mozilla's popular web browser Firefox, but did you know they also have a great e-mail program, Mozilla Thunderbird? And it has some fantastic features too.

When it comes to free e-mail programs, they usually lack the features that you would find in the corporate standard Microsoft Outlook. Even the e-mail program that comes with Windows 10, Mail, has a limited feature set.

But with Mozilla Thunderbird, you get all sorts of features right out of the box. It includes a calendar, address book, and a task scheduler.

Account settings inside of Mozilla Thunderbird
Account settings inside of Mozilla Thunderbird

When it comes to e-mail, Mozilla Thunderbird can handle multiple e-mail addresses (POP or IMAP) and can send mail in either plain text or HTML format. You can also add signatures (HTML or plain text) for each e-mail account.

Mozilla Thunderbird includes an adaptive junk mail filter for each account; you have to train it using the Junk toolbar. You can also request return receipts, just like in Outlook.

There are also message filters similar to rules in Outlook so that you can automatically process mail as it comes in. You can create folder and sub-folders for local storage too.

When I compared Mozilla Thunderbird to Microsoft Outlook, I found they had almost the same features. Mozilla Thunderbird has a couple of features that Microsoft Outlook does not.

One of those features, just like Mozilla Firefox, is the ability to add more functionally with Add-ons. With Add-ons, you can extend what you can do with Mozilla Thunderbird.

Some Add-ons allow you to connect to a Gmail calendar, sync the address book with Gmail contacts, and create custom menus. And if you want to change the way Thunderbird looks, there are numerous themes too.

The only feature missing from the current version of Mozilla Thunderbird is the ability to import data from Microsoft Outlook. If you want to import Outlook data, you have to first install Thunderbird version 31.8, import your Outlook data, and then upgrade Thunderbird to the current version.

There are versions of Mozilla Thunderbird that run on Windows 7 through Windows 10, Mac OS X 10.9 through Mac OS 10.12, and GNU/Linux. For a complete list of system requirements, see the link below.

As with Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird is also open source and free for personal/commercial use. Mozilla is a non-profit organization that relies on donations.

So, if you find Mozilla Thunderbird useful, donate to help support the ongoing development of it. Click here to go to their donation page.

For more information on Mozilla Thunderbird, follow the links below.

Mozilla Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird - system requirements

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