News Column

Tips to get the most from your laptop

February 14, 2014

A properly configured laptop can make life so much easier and save heaps of time.

For example, I managed to get a lot of the work on this column done while sitting on a train, using my smartphone as a modem to stay online.

I've tried all sorts of gadgets but still depend on my laptop to do serious work outside the office.

Here are a few of my favourite utilities to help my fellow road warriors get the most out of their portable PCs.

Double desktop: At the office, I use two large computer monitors, with my Windows desktop stretched across both of them. When I'm out of the office using my laptop with its single, tiny screen, I create "virtual" desktops instead.

I organise my programs, documents and shortcuts for a particular customer or project in a separate desktop environment, then simply switch between these as necessary.

This is far easier than wading through lots of different taskbar buttons or open windows, and removes clutter when I'm on a customer site and don't need to see unrelated files or programs.

The tool I use is called Dexpot from It's free for personal use and e25 for a business use licence.

Dexpot's various preview options show you at a glance what's happening on each of your virtual desktops, and swopping between them is nearly instantaneous. It's as if you're working on several separate, tidy computers all at once.

A quick caution: during the installation of Dexpot, click the "Custom Install" option and untick the "Install Tune Up Utilities 2014" option - this is extra software bundled with the Dexpot installer, but it's not necessary and I haven't tested it.

Battery boost: A laptop battery will always give up just seconds before you are due to send an important proposal, or just as you're about to click Save.

You can eke a little more life out of a dwindling battery by turning off some of Windows's more elaborate features, like the glossy "Aero" interface found in Windows 7.

A nifty, unobtrusive tool called Aerofoil lets you temporarily switch off these unnecessary effects while on battery power.

Expect to gain between 5 and 15 percent extra battery life. Aerofoil also makes it easy to switch between power plans, so you can choose one that balances performance and power consumption.

There's a useful article about Aerofoil at and the download is on the right side of the web page at

Simple Sync: Dropbox is a useful tool for any type of computer, but especially on a laptop.

Simply save your work to your Dropbox folder and the next time you're online, it will sync automatically to your Dropbox folder on another PC, smartphone or tablet. In other words, you can keep your files synced and updated across all your devices.

Dropbox offers a free account that allows you to store up to |2 gigabytes of data. You can earn more free data (up to 16 gigabytes) by referring your friends to Dropbox. Download from www.dropbox .com.

Pad pause: Most laptops have a "touchpad" that replaces a computer mouse. On some models you can inadvertently move the cursor if part of your hand touches the touchpad while you're typing.

TouchFreeze temporarily disables the touchpad whenever the keyboard is being used.

There is no user interface, but it can be enabled or disabled from the system tray (bottom right corner of screen). Those who need TouchFreeze will love it.

Download from www.tinyurl .com/tfreeze2014.

See you next week for more.

l This column will appear in the Network supplement every Wednesday from next week.

The Mercury

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Mercury, The (South Africa)

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