Windows 8 Featured App: Metro Commander

March 8, 2013

As we mentioned in a previous post, we are looking at some of the more useful Windows 8 apps available. This week, we’ll discuss one app in particular.

Metro Commander

This first app is Metro Commander.

Metro Commander for Windows 8

This is similar to Directory Opus. It was a useful tool on the Amiga PC, unlike any default file management on the other operating system. This was ideal for mass file management and for when you wanted to do just a bit more than pass a file from one place to another.

The AmigaOS never gained the reputation it deserved and most of the programmes made for it faded away, but some got ported to other OSes and in the process lost a lot of what made them unique.

However, Directory Opus survived and got ported to the PC, but Metro Commander for Windows 8 is a free alternative.

So, why do you need it? When comparing folders and doing a lot of file management, Metro Commander makes it quicker and easier than doing just on the desktop.

Like most sensible things, there is a little learning curve; it takes just a couple of minutes to familiarize yourself. If you think you don’t need to learn anything once you’ve left school, this app isn’t for you.

You basically have 2 panes, left and right, these can be set to any folders on your drives, similar to how you can open windows on your desktop.

To select what you want to see in each pane, right-click on the item to get options (like any win8 app).

You will then see icons to add a drive, choose a folder, select standard folders for music, pictures, videos, and there is also a SkyDrive option.

The idea is to click to select the drive, then select each place you normally access.This will then add those drives as icons on the right click toolbar along the top of your screen.

You can set often used folders as favourites and there will be an icon for it in the toolbar.

What makes it powerful is once you have your two folders chosen it makes it very easy to do a number of things:

  • Right-clicking on a file gives the option to do the usual things like rename, copy, move, etc. However, if it is a video or picture file, it will show it in the background visible behind the interface (useful for when your file name or description isn’t great and you need a reminder of what it is). Left-clicking once will open that file in a separate window (so it’s like having a built-in video, music and picture viewer while you are sorting files, without the need to open them in separate apps. This is a great tool for very quickly scanning through pictures, videos and also music – once you left click on a file to see or hear it, you then have next/previous buttons to scan through them.
  • Group selecting files is just a case of holding down the right button and sliding over any files you want to select.
Metro Commander Image Display

Comparing two folders side by side is much easier using this app. There are some additional features we hope to see in future updates:

  • Selecting drives only seems to be available on the local machine. It would be good to scan the local network for any networked drives.
  • Right clicking an image file shows it behind the interface. We’d like to see that feature expanded to include such file types as PDF and text.
  • Having an information bar/window would be good, too. If multiple files are selected, the information bar could show how many files are selected, total size, etc.
  • A file compare option would be very handy, too. For example, when 2 folders are open, it would highlight duplicate files.
  • We hope more cloud options will become available as a drive choice in the right-click toolbar.

If you find yourself frequently having to sort through files and folders on your Windows 8 computer, consider giving the Metro Commander a try.

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Last Few Days!

February 26, 2013

The =IcaruS= Valentines Sale on our couples watch sets ends Friday!

It’s your chance to get our very best products for HALF OFF the regular price! The discount is ONLY available in our inworld shoppe.

For more information about the watches, see our previous post, All the Romance at Half the Price.

Valentines Sale 2013 at =IcaruS=
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Windows VIII: A Guide to the Successor

February 19, 2013

As usual, Microsoft received some flak for its latest operating system, Windows 8. Typically, the more radical the innovation, the more criticism it gets. It’s understandable, to some extent, but time moves on and so does an operating system (OS). I’m rarely a ‘fan’ of anything much (by today’s fanatic standards). However, the possibility of significant improvements means I’m still keen to give it a go.

Windows 8 Start Screen

Windows 8 (Win8) IS an improvement over the past OS version, but it can be a jarring experience for those who just want the same old thing but ‘better’. Essentially, there are improvements on the common ground with the previous OS. The alternate workflow can be a gradual transition or a dramatic change depending on your approach.

There are many reviews elsewhere, so I’m just going to touch on what makes it better for me and what could improve the experience and workflow for people feeling like “it’s not Windows 7”.

Installing

Upgrading from an older OS is a lot simpler and quicker now, but the process may run into problems on older machines. Before Win8 installs, it will look at your system and let you know what incompatibilities (if any) it may have found before installing, so it’s not such a leap into the dark.

One key thing is to check that you have the latest BIOS installed as Windows 8 takes advantage of newer BIOS features and this will greatly reduce possible upgrade hiccups.

Note: if you have bloatware on a computer from the original sellers (Sony, Dell, etc), the best way ’round this (if you don’t want a fresh install) is to take off that software first. Windows has replacement versions for most or, in most cases, the manufacturers will have updates for Windows 8.

Navigating

Okay, so it’s installed and you see a big, colourful screen of swooshy tiles and now you wonder what is going on. The best way I could describe Win8 to get your head round it is to say it’s like 2 OS systems running on your PC, one complementing the other, with each having its own screen. Anyone who ever used an Amiga that had multiscreen/desktop options or far more recently AMD’s Hydravision should get the idea pretty quickly. Your desktop is still there, but now the OS has ‘screen layers’ so one desktop is under the other and you can flick between them. It’s similar to having a full-screen game running at one resolution and alt+tabbing to flick back to your desktop, only quicker, so bear that in mind when you get your new OS on.

Another way to get between screens besides the clunky alt+tab is to use the corners of your screen (hot corners). The left side corners will flick you between your desktop and the new ‘start screen’. The bottom left corner goes between the two, and top left is for if you have multiple screens open. To select from a number of open apps/screens, put your mouse to the top left corner, then move it down the edge; this brings up thumbnails of all open screens. It becomes a quick way to get around.

Probably the next issue you will have is ‘but how do I close them?’. Windows will close them for you if resources start running out anyway, but you can do it yourself. Right-click on any thumbnail in the top left hot corner and select close (there’s no “X” at top right anymore for the new apps), or if you want to close the screen you are on, move your mouse cursor to the top until you see a hand icon, then drag it down off the bottom of the screen.

Navigating in the new start screen is quick with a mouse wheel, scrolling that will shift through any screen left and right while right clicking on things will bring up options – simple. It’s even simpler with a touch screen.

For people like myself, with great visual memory but lousy at remembering names, the start screen really helps. You can arrange all of your apps in groups on that screen, so you can find them by their location rather than looking at a long list in the old start button menu (and you can still have their icon shortcuts on the desktop as before, too).

Options

Windows 8 Charms BarSo, the left corners are for navigating. The right corners are for options. Microsoft calls this a ‘charms’ bar. (Twee name, in my opinion, downplaying its power.) This is a context sensitive bar that will change depending on what screen you have open at the time, along with some constants like power options, search, etc.

The settings options will change according to what you have open at the time. For example, if you open the charms bar when on the desktop you will have some different options than if you are on the start screen or in an app. This keeps it simple, as you’re only changing things for what you are in at the time. For global changes, you still can do it the conventional way through the Control Panel.

Searching is now also on the charms bar and again, it’s context sensitive and quick. Below the search option is a list of your installed apps, so you can select them to search without having to go into them. If you find yourself searching in the same app a lot, but it’s way down the list, you can right-click the app and ‘pin to top’. You can also hide apps you don’t use there, too.

Improvements

Copying files has long been an issue with Windows (such a basic need!) but with Win8 there finally seems to be a bigger improvement – a cancel button that actually cancels, rather than waits forever – and it doesn’t grumble anymore when you move multiple large files across folders or drives. Networking over LANs has become a lot easier now, too, and it just generally seems to behave and do what you want it to do. Installing software, finding new devices – the basics – are all so much better.

The new start screen is great if you output to multiple screens or TVs, as it’s much easier to read and it’s easy to increase the size of everything without having to change screen resolution. The Windows button with the minus/plus keys changes that, along with going to ‘make everything on your screen bigger’ in Settings. (They should have a keyboard shortcut for this, but they don’t for some obscure reason.)

Snapshots of your screen aren’t treated like a text clipboard any more. Instead, they go into a Screenshots folder, so you no longer need to do the old routine: Print Screen, paste somewhere, screenshot paste, etc.

Syncing through the cloud is better, too. With multiple PCs, any changes you do on one PC (say, updating your contacts folder) will be reflected on your other machines.

Win8 has even breathed some new life into my older machines now, as they are a lot more perky.

Another reason I say running Windows 8 is like having a dual OS is that you can install two versions of the same software. For eg., you have the Chrome browser for the desktop, but you can also have it on the start screen. Windows sort of describes this as ‘backwards compatibility’ but you will find reasons for having both installed for some apps and only new ones or old ones for others.

A Few Last Tips

As to the old-style ‘start button’ you can get that back, as I did, but I soon found it redundant once I’d got my head round the new navigation, so installing something like this Start8 app from Stardock with the 30-day free trial should be enough; by the end of the trial period you won’t be using it.

Instead of Start8, what you can do is just right-click the bottom left corner of your screen (or use the Windows key + X) when on the desktop to bring up those common things that were in the old start menu. Any apps you want, you can access them from the new start screen instead of looking through a list of apps. To customize that new menu you can use this: Win+X Menu Editor for Windows 8 from Winaero (though why that isn’t a default in Windows, I don’t know).

Now, just a few more tips to get you moving along quicker:

  • When Windows 8 starts (it’s a lot quicker starting up now) you get a ‘lock screen’ – this is also like a screensaver and it kicks in when you’re not using the PC. You can add what apps you want to this that it will monitor, like a count of unread emails, news, etc. This can be set by clicking the ‘Change PC Settings’ at the bottom of Settings in the Charms bar (or mouseover the right corners of screen).
  • Gadgets went with Win7, but if you still want them on your desktop, try this: 8GadgetPack (it’s actually 12 gadgets in the pack).
  • If you have new external storage it could be helpful to read this post about managing external storage in Windows 8, and if you want Windows to search in other drives besides the default C:, then select the indexing options in Control Panel.
  • To speed up what is already a faster boot-up time, you can now look in Task Manager, which shows you a list of apps that run at start-up and what time impact they have, with options to disable them.
  • As I’ve said earlier, there are plenty of other places to find more information about using Win8. Trying this first may be a good start: Getting Started with Windows 8.
  • If you’ve installed any apps from the Windows Store (no, it’s not all paid items, there are plenty of good free apps), you may see a number at the top right corner or on the Store tile on the Start screen – this tells you the number of installed apps that have updates ready to install. The update process is a snap.

In a later post, I will list some of the more invaluable free apps I have found for Win8.

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