Fences – It’s time to love your Desktop again.

Right then, are you a tidy sort or a messy sort?

Not in life, if you’re the messy sort in real life there’s not much I can do to help, you filthy degenerate. No, I mean your computer life, are you the tidy or messy sort on the Desktop of your PC!

Because if you have let your Desktop get out of control, if it does look like someone picked up your monitor, shook it like a Flatscreen Maraca and now all of your assorted crap is scattered in no discernible order whatsoever, I have just the little application for you.

It’s called Fences and it’s the perfect way to stop being at least a Desktop filthy degenerate.

For just by downloading this ever so useful little utility it can organise your Desktop into nicely styled little boxed areas of folders, of programs, files, and shortcuts and correctly label them as well, automatically!

Fences - Desktop Organiser

(And you needn’t worry if this new found order only confuses you. Because before doing anything Fences will take a snapshot of your Desktop in its original messed up state so with a click of a button you can watch as it reverts every icon back to its previous place in your organised chaos.)

You have manual control too, you can hold right-click to ‘draw’ your own Fences, move them around, change their colour, change their label, resize them, drag icons in and out of them, just about everything you’d want to keep pleasingly customisable order on your desktop.

And for the ultimate cleanaway, with a double-click Fences will also hide every icon on your desktop. So you’ll now be able to view your desktop wallpaper of the Windows logo, abstract lines, sand dunes, poppy fields or even Justin Bieber in all its unobscured glory before another double-click on the desktop brings everything back again.

I won’t pretend Fences is a life changer, it doesn’t pretend that itself. But it is something that serves a very useful purpose in a very efficient manner and it’s a wonder Microsoft don’t build the same sort of thing into Windows from the start.

Because even from just a normal couple of columns of icons on your Desktop, Fences will still arrange things more tidily, make icons easier to find and in a way that will prompt you to keep it like that.

I know, because I am a reformed Desktop filthy degenerate.

And I haven’t mentioned yet that you can get it absolutely FREE, you can download Fences here. (There is a paid version available as well)

So then, to sum up this great little organsiser in one fittingly succinct sentence.

Fences, it’s neat.

Be Funky. The art of photography made simple.

Let me ask you this, have you ever felt like the frustrated artist.

That you know deep down inside you’re just bursting with creativity but the only thing you’ve ever really drawn successfully are the curtains.

Well, let me introduce you to a great little resource by the name of Be Funky, an entirely free browser based application that lets you unleash your inner Banksy by at least turning your photos into works of art.

For this is what it does, and brilliantly easily too. With one click of the mouse you can transform photographs into stencil drawings, cartoons, fine line sketches and dayglo half-tone Warhol paintings amongst many other inbuilt styles and then fine-tune them as well.

And not only that, you can access all sorts of other customisable goodies too, adding frames, speech bubbles, shapes, even a beard and devil horns to a picture of your Mother-in-Law if your creative muse so dictates…assuming she doesn’t possess either already.

Getting started is simple as well, you upload pictures via an elegant little interface and you can even select those images you already have online on social networks accounts like Facebook, My Space or Flickr.

Plus once you’re done, Be Funky is just as slick in allowing you to share your masterpieces, sending the finished results to your desktop, back to those same community accounts or you can just as easily email your work to your soon to be impressed friends.

Plus it does all this without need for registration, although it does only take a minute to create an account and then you’ll be able to save all of your prized creations.

I think Be Funky is terrific, it’s one of those websites which is part serious application, part frivolous fun but wholely ‘just one more go’ compulsive.

But don’t just take my word for it, visit Be Funky and draw your own conclusion.

No puppies were harmed in funking up these photographs

No puppies were harmed in funking up these photographs

OpenWith. The solution to opening any kind of file.

Now then, it’s a fact of computer life that sometimes there are files on our machines that we can’t open.

Someone sends you something with the message, “You Must See This, They’re Enormous!” and you try every program you have but nothing will let you crack into that elusive extension.

So what to do?

Well, one option is to use a file conversion service like Zamzar, something I’ve already written about.

Or perhaps you just find a FREE program that you know is compatible with that filetype and download it, thus making life a lot less frustrating when your annoying but well meaning friend sends you the same kind of file again.

And that’s what a handy utility called OpenWith allows you to do.

OpenWithBecause after a simple and lightweight download of OpenWith itself, (Although a word to the wise, it does come bundled with another download for something called PC MightyMax 2009, so uncheck that option when you see that screen) now if you right click on the offending file, the first option to appear in that contextual menu is the query ‘Openwith.org. How Do I Open This?’

So you click to find out, it’s own little browser like window opens and you’ll be answered by a description of that filetype plus a list of one or more FREE programs that will definitely open it for you, even providing the download links to those programs.

All very easy and convenient but if you’d like some further info before proceeding, simply double click the filetype or program description in that OpenWith window and be transported to its own website where you’ll be able to learn more.

And don’t think OpenWith is only useful for providing a list of programs to open obscure file extensions, you’ll find free sources to open all Microsoft formats as well, along with so many others you may think require the original and expensive programming. Like I say, OpenWith provides the solution to open ANY kind of file.

Actually while I say ANY, it’s more like a disinfectant killing 99% of all known germs, a few filetypes might still be stubbornly resistant but you needn’t worry that yours will be one of them.

There’s really not much more to add, except to say that this great little program has earned 5 star reviews and is certified free from all spyware and malware.

So go to the OpenWith.org website by clicking this link, have a look at the easy-to-follow instructions page and decide whether this is something you can use.

But I would say that sooner or later you’ll definitely have a use for OpenWith, that OpenWith stays out of the way until you do need it and that OpenWith is small and safe so don’t muck about, download it while you think of it.

After all, you never know what your friend will send you next.

Spotify. The latest music for free, FREE!

Have you heard, there’s a new player in town.

Because while I’ve already told you about We7 with all its wealth of free music, I’m compelled to tell you there is an equal source for all the latest and greatest tracks and full albums.

It’s called Spotify, and despite a name like an instruction to rub butter into the pores of a pimply teenager, with millions of songs to listen to, it spreads only musical joy.

spotify5And like We7 the music is all free and legal because the Spotify business model is likewise supported by advertising. Although unlike We7 whose adverts are short but frequent, Spotify has fewer ads but they are a more typical radio stylee 30 seconds.

Mind you, if you want to go to the expense of paying a premium service of 99p a day or £9.99 for a month you can turn those adverts off, although there’s no real need to. Unless of course you’re up for a night of seduction and rather not risk an awkwardly timed condom ad interupting that ‘Luurve’ playlist you prepared.

But anyway, one main difference between the two is that while We7 is a web browser based streaming service, Spotify is a downloaded application to your computer hard drive. It is quick and simple though, only requires filling in a short registration and is a tiny 1.45MB download size.

That’s because the actual tracks are not downloaded, they just play in the Spotify interface. This is free music remember, it’s not iTunes, you do need to be connected to the internet to access them and you can’t add any to your mp3 player, even if the interface itself will remind you of iTunes.

For the clean looks and minimalist controls make searching and playing a doddle and it’s easy to create your own playlists with the drag and drop functionality.

Plus when you are searching for a popular artist or song you’ll be wide eyed with its amount of results. Spotify will return your enquiry for the artists own albums, compilation albums, soundtrack albums, the lot, everything short of their kiddy photo album.

And while I could explain more, I’ll leave those discoveries to you. I will just add that Spotify is another fantastic free music source you’d be crazy not to take advantage of, and you can download it by clicking this link

So go on, get Spotify, spotifying and spotified, and I don’t mean with a knob of Lurpak.

(*Hi again folks. It’s November 2009 and clearly Spotify isn’t the little known application I spoke of 6 months ago, it’s become the Daddy of ALL the free music sites.

It’s moved on as well, new features include the option to buy the tracks and an improved Premium service that now provides iPhone integration,  access to your music off-line and apparently even better sound quality as well.

Myself, I’m still happy with the quality of the free stuff.)

Dropbox. Sharing files between computers the easy way.

This time I want to talk about a fantastic web application for anybody who, like me, has to work between multiple computers. And even if you don’t, you’ll still find it useful so keep reading.

It’s a FREE application called Dropbox, I use it practically every single day and I’m telling you right now, it’s a total bloody Godsend.

Because the problem with using different computers is sharing the files you create between them, a headache made into a thumping migraine if they are in different locations as well.

The typical answer is to transfer files to a USB memory stick and cart it to the next computer.

The DropBox Web Interface

My Dropbox Web Interface

But the beauty of Dropbox is that it does the same thing a lot easier, in effect it’s a virtual memory stick but with bells on.

Think of it like one normal folder that you share between multiple computers, wherever they are, and have easy access to any of its files.

And thinking bigger still, if you work as part of a team, one that your colleagues can use and contribute to as well.

The simplest way to explain Dropbox is to tell you how it works for me, someone who uses 3 computers, a PC, a Mac and a laptap.

For each I’ve included the free Dropbox software which allows an initial but still generous 2GB’s of storage on their free account. (You can upgrade for more if you wish, but you have to pay)

Now to share anything I create on one machine, I just open the Dropbox folder using it’s own smart little icon in the toolbar, and drag and drop the file.

Then the new file inside Dropbox simply gets synchronized to the other computers linked to my account, with success being indicated by a reassuring big green tick.

After which when I use one of my other computers, I just open the Dropbox folder on that machine and voila, there’s my new file.

And it’s a transfer process that easily beats the time it takes to move files to a memory stick because it only includes new additions.

For instance if you’ve updated a file Dropbox already recognises then it only updates those changes, the new complete file is there but you can even go back and access any previous versions as well.

You do this from the separate associated web application to Dropbox, which you don’t have to use but is easily accessed and displayed in a simple interface.

And that’s the thing, the nice folks behind Dropbox have created it to be as worry free and as simple as possible.

It’s actually easier to use than to explain.

There’s a sampler video you can watch on their website that does a good job though.

To see it and get this great application for yourself, use this referral link to go to the Dropbox website. If you do, I get an extra 250mb of space automatically added to my account…and more to the point for you, you do as well. In fact by referring various friends to Dropbox, you can earn up to an extra 6GB’s of space.

But all that aside, even if you don’t use multiple computers, just think of Dropbox as a secure and remote backup for all your most important files. A free virtual USB memory stick that you can’t lose.

Perhaps I should tell the Civil Service.