Ask the Techie: Mixer recommendations

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the technology committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I’m in the market for a new mixer. Do you have any recommendations?

Mixing it up in the city


Dear Mixing:

It’s always great when you have the opportunity to update or upgrade your equipment, and doing so proactively lets you really research your choices. Good luck on finding the one that’s right for you!

There are many options available for a mixer out on the market, but our needs can be so specific. Here are our suggestions.

Lou Chiodo, CLVS, a videographer who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator and Trial Presentation Professional certificates, of New York City, N.Y.:  I recently added the Zoom F8 – Recorder/Mixer into my deposition kit. I cannot say this is an inexpensive audio solution; however, I do believe that it is a crucial item in my audio workflow.

I was persuaded to select this model based on the following key features:

  • It is a professional field mixer and sophisticated recorder in one, with eight channels, in a lightweight, aluminum, tiny form factor.
  • It comes with flexible SD card recording options, providing redundant recording; safety track recording; or a combination of isolated channels with a second mix containing all channels.
  • It includes an iOS companion app for iPad or iPhone and it handles remote control of its mixing and recording features. (This app satisfies my only complaint of it having small knobs.)

If this mixer/recorder combo is for you, it is readily available online for $799 – originally priced at $1,000.

My preferred setup for recording audio for court reporters or their scopists is to always keep one of the left or right channel, peak signal levels, slightly lower or behind the other channel for safer recording and to prevent distortion or clipping. I then record all individual channels onto one SD card and a mix of all channels onto the other SD card during the deposition. The files are then available for immediate transfer to the reporter, especially for a next-day expedite.

 

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter and captioner based in Mobile, Ala.: I do use a mixer for my court work. I like the Rolls MX410 4-Channel Microphone Mixer. I think professional XLR connections provide the best quality audio for any mixer, which is what most videographers use as well. You can buy the XLR in a variety of different lengths, so you can accommodate almost any room.

For captioning, I just use a simple Pyle Pro amp. What’s most important to me is the headset. You need something super light, since you’re wearing it most of the day. I prefer a full ear cup, so my favorite headset is the Bose Quietcomfort. You can find wired and wireless versions out there. Most of the wired ones have been retired, but there are plenty on eBay right now that you can get at a reduced price.

 

Scott Aaron, a videographer based in Memphis, Tenn.: I utilize the Shure SCM268 Microphone Mixer for my audio recording during depositions. It has four transformer balanced XLR microphone inputs and one transformer balanced XLR mic/line output. Each of the four line inputs are adjusted individually, giving you control for each person using a lapel mic. As with most mixers, the volume adjustments are easily made, ensuring a great-sounding final product.

The main reasons I chose this mixer are: 1) Reliability: This mixer has been tried and tested for many years with excellent reviews; 2) Compact size; 3) Cost: Around $200-$250. I have used this mixer for 11 years and have never had any issues.

 

Cheryl Erwin, a videographer, Nashville, Tenn.: Looking for the perfect audio mixer for depositions was a challenge. Most of the mixers we considered had far more functions than we needed. We did not need three bands of EQ or built-in effects. What we did need was a mixer that was lightweight and portable, with XLR inputs for good quality. We decided upon the ROLLS ProMIX-IV. It’s a four-channel mixer with four XLR connectors in and two out. It has four rotating input volume controls and two auxiliary out connectors, 1/4-inch phone plug, and a mini plug. This mixer also has 48-volt phantom power, which we don’t use because we have battery-powered condenser microphones. We have found that EQ is not necessary and four microphones are enough for most depositions. This mixer sells for about $150, it’s lightweight and fairly small, 6 in. x 4 in. x 3 in. The audio quality is outstanding!

 

Rob Sawyer, a videographer based in Memphis, Tenn.: I have used Yamaha and Peavey over the years for audio/video deposition units. All these units have four pro-level XLR inputs with individual volume controls for each microphone plus a master level and a separate level for the output. The mixed output is used to send the audio to the court reporter’s computer or audio recording device. Four inputs allows separate mics for each primary opposing lawyer, the deponent, and an overall room mic. The room mic is used primarily as a backup. I like Yamaha the best because it is compact and durable. The cost is usually $150-$200.

 

Julie Coulston, a videographer based in Jackson, Tenn.: I use a Shure Mixer that I purchased five or six years ago, and I am almost positive it has been replaced by a newer version, so I wouldn’t know which one to recommend to new videographers. For the court reporter audio, I use a TASCAM recorder that records onto an SD card. I can give it to the reporter on site, or I can email them the audio, which the reporter can download when convenient.

Ask the Techie: Microphone recommendations

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am a court reporter who freelances with several different court reporting agencies. My trusty laptop is on its last legs, so I am going to purchase a new computer and will use my existing machine for backup purposes.

One of my upcoming assignments is a jury trial — a first for me. The courtroom is in an old courthouse and so I am unsure about the acoustics and whether I will be able to hear all of the participants. The voir dire is scaring me to death, actually. There will be no microphones for prospective jurors. I need my backup media to be as clear as possible.

Yikes! Please help! I need some guidance about which microphone options I should be considering.

Muddled Mike


Dear Mike:

Good luck on your upcoming assignment. It’s always good to go in prepared to handle anything. Here are a few recommendations from some of the Committee members.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner in Wayzata, Minn.: I have used many great microphones. Now I am using the SoundTech CM-1000 3.5 mm Omni-directional Conference Microphone. I use the SoundTech to connect to my separate recorder (Marantz Professional, which is plugged into a power strip). I have connected up to three via daisy chaining down a long conference table. There’s a USB version if you want to connect to a computer and then daisy chain more from there. The microphone costs about $39.

I currently use CaseCat and DigitalCAT, and I have a Dell Latitude; but I do not use a microphone with my computer at this time. In the past, I used the DepoBook Stealth Microphone and that was a plug and play, which worked well with my Latitude. Since all software and computers have different audio systems, it’s best to have your CAT company and the microphone company help you get the settings perfected.

I like the low profile of the SoundTech, the daisy chaining ability, and the fact the SoundTech can be plugged into my computer (USB version), sound amplifier (Pocketalker), or recorder.

I don’t use a microphone connected to my computer. I use the Williams Sound Pocketalker (personal amplifier, $189) on many of my depos. The SoundTechs connect to the Pocketalker as well. I set it all up and have it ready to go — if the deponent is difficult to hear, I then turn it on at the next break, or stop the proceedings and turn it on if need be. When I can hear the words more clearly in the first place while writing, I write better, have a better record, which means that I have an easier time editing and I am less tired at the end of the day.

Recently, I connected a lapel mic (Sony ECMCS3 Clip style Omnidirectional Stereo Microphone – about $20) to a low-speaking witness. The lapel mic was connected to the Pocketalker and then I had an earbud to listen with one ear. Also I recently used the Pocketalker on a two-week arbitration where the background noise was awful. I again connected lapel mics (using a splitter cable so as to have both mics go into the Pocketalker) and had the witness and the questioning attorney wear the mics. The arbitrators kept asking participants to repeat, while I had no difficulty hearing.

Lynette L. Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn.: I use the MXL AC-404 Conference microphone. This microphone is designed to capture crystal-clear intelligibility for multiple uses and has easy plug-in-play connectivity. Bonus: There are no drivers to download! It is compatible with Windows and Mac. For my Luminex, I utilize the Martel HGM-2. The cost is about $99, but check online for the best price. Some vendors offer free shipping. My go-to sources are either Amazon or B&H Photo Video. The cost of the HGM-2 is around $179.

I am on Case CATalyst. I find that the microphone settings that get me the best audio quality are as follows:

  • MXL Microphone Sound settings: Speakers Properties: Levels: Balance, 37; Advanced: 16 bit, 48000 Hz (DVD Quality)
  • Audio Settings in my software: 11025 Hz, 80MB/hr
  • HGM-2 microphone sound settings on Luminex: Microphone gain: 52%, Audio Format: ADPCM (14.7MB/hr)

As a freelancer, my court reporting assignments involve a variety of venues: depositions, arbitrations, hearings, and courtrooms. The number-one reason I landed with the MXL microphone is for the judicial reporting aspect. Backup media is an important tool for us. I go into several different courtrooms and am the official court reporter for trials and hearings. I wanted to ensure a seamless way to handle bench conferences. Since the courtrooms are on the small-ish side, it is easier to stay in my seat, slap some headphones on, and I’m ready to roll! Some other court reporters were using Scotch tape to adhere their microphone to the judge’s bench. Needless to say, the finish is wearing off on his bench. This conference mic has a low profile and will lay flat on any surface.

The second reason I bought the MXL was for the sound quality. I’ve utilized several different brands of PCs over the past five years. Each laptop has different specs for the audio quality. With each one of my purchases, though, this mic has always enhanced my BAM with generally no concerns.

The third reason was the USB plug-in-play. I like the idea of never having to install drivers. When I do have the need to switch to my backup computer, I know I am ready to go at a moment’s notice because of the plug-in-play feature.

 

Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, a freelancer based in Brentwood, Tenn., (and frequent JCR contributor): It depends on the venue. Right now, for most applications, I use my HGMUSB mic and set it up on the table for a deposition or on a tripod at the bench for bench conferences and normal courtroom sound. I also have purchased the SP-USB-Mic-Model-6-Plus from Sound Professionals that I can also use as a standalone mic in depos, or with two boundary mics at the bench and at the witness stand via a 10-foot cord. It sells for about $300 from Martel. The Model 6 plus with the boundary mics was about $525 together.

I’m currently on Case CATalyst, and I use the default settings on the USB mics. Using the noise-canceling feature may work in some really bad deposition suites, but I’ve found that noise canceling will keep you from hearing the whispered bench conferences. Most of the time, I keep the mics at about 80-90 percent, keeping watch on the sound bar provided by my CAT system. If it starts to run to red, I reduce the volume. If it barely registers, I increase it. I set my systems to always listen and set my default audio as the USB devices. That forces you to use an earbud or headphones to monitor or play back. But there’s nothing worse than having your monitor be your system speakers: You cannot stop the caterwauling feedback quickly enough.

I’ve bought the cheap ones and the not-so cheap ones. Frankly, I had a lot of problems because the Lenovo Yoga Power Converter interfered horribly with all of my USB mics. Once I bought a different computer, I could hear again with crystal clarity. So my reasons for setting on the HGMUSB mic were: 1) Reliability; 2) Sound clarity; and 3) Ability to adjust the sound easily. All USB devices are similar. Cost is not a true consideration when a lot of my cases are realtime jury trials. I have to hear. These mics (and a great pair of Bose headphones) allow me to hear the bench conferences without too much difficulty.

As far as microphones for my writer, I use the Martel HGM-2. It’s a condenser mic with a battery that lasts forever, almost. I’ve used this mic on my writer as a backup to the CAT system numerous times. A USB is subject to audio environmental whims more often than I’d like, and the writer backup stays consistently outstanding.

 

Lou Chiodo, CLVS, a videographer who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator and Trial Presentation Professional certificates, of New York City, N.Y.: I use the following two types of microphones in every deposition. These particular models are somewhat pricey, but I believe the audio is as important or likely more important than the images. If you want a demonstration of why, put the news on your TV at home sometime and move to the next room; and you will (if audible) hear and understand the information. Try that with the picture only — and even stay in the room — and it likely will not convey the information being provided.

There are a myriad of available models and styles that may work for videographers and court reporters alike. The Audio-Technica AT899 lavalier microphone is designed to be mounted on or hidden underneath clothing. Its slim low-profile design is ideal for depositions and broadcast applications. The tailored frequency response accentuates the frequency response of voices while minimizing low frequency noise, such as the air conditioner in many board rooms where depositions take place. A low-frequency roll-off switch further minimizes noise due to hum, ambiance, and proximity effect. The AT899 features a condenser element with a cardioid polar pattern. The cardioid pattern is effective in minimizing noise and ambiance at the off-axis sections of the microphone capsule. (The most common unidirectional microphone is a cardioid microphone, so named because the sensitivity pattern is “heart-shaped,” i.e. a cardioid. The cardioid family of microphones are commonly used as vocal or speech microphones, since they are good at rejecting sounds from other directions.)

The U841A from Audio-Technica is an omnidirectional condenser boundary microphone for surface-mount applications. It is designed for surface-mount applications such as sound reinforcement, conferencing, television sound, and more. A boundary microphone is essentially a small diaphragm condenser mic mounted in a housing that directs the diaphragm parallel to the surface onto which it’s mounted. You can see a diagram of a boundary mic’s setup in the illustration above. The parallel setup allows the mic to pick up the sound that is reflected off the surface that it’s mounted to, such as a wall or table.

How to reduce the size of a pdf file

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

By Lynette Mueller

When you have a large file, it may not be easy to share through standard methods. It’s useful to know how to compress pdfs.

Prior to scanning your exhibits and documents, be sure to adjust your settings in your scanner app. For those times when perhaps you get scanned docs from a paralegal or attorney and the file size is extremely large and you want to link the exhibits to your transcript or you need to send a transcript via email and not sure a client will be able to receive it, reduce the file size of the doc using these options:

  1.  My first choice is Smallpdf. Just drag-and-drop your PDF file in the box, wait for the compression to complete, and then download your file. It’s that simple. All the file compressing takes place in the cloud and will not consume any capacity from your own computer. Best of all? Smallpdf.com is browser-based and works for all platforms. It doesn’t matter if you use Mac, Windows, or Linux.
  1. Acrobat offers a tutorial to reduce file size.
  1. Another option for compressing pdfs is Split_pdf.

Ask the techie: Condensing software

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the technology committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am a freelance reporter and thinking about starting my own business. It’s so intimidating thinking about the many facets of running my own firm! First on my list: Which condensing transcript software should I be considering? There are so many options available that it makes my head spin and I’m not sure which one to choose. Please help!

Concerned About Condensing


Dear Concerned:

Congratulations on taking the next step in your career! Indeed, there are many things to consider when starting your own firm. Glad we are here to help get you started on the right track.

There are several options available for word indexing and condensing. Here are our suggestions.

Cheri Sullivan, RPR, of Memphis, Tenn.: We selected YesLaw after meeting them at the convention in Nashville in 2013. The customer support team has always been great to work with. It is easy to link exhibits, insert a signature/notary seal, insert a picture of the witness, and even place “original” or “copy” on the style page. All eight of us have been happy with YesLaw overall.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Portland, Ore.: We have ReporterBase, a.k.a. RB, for calendaring, transcript production, and invoicing. We produce the transcripts with RB. With it, we can digitally sign, hyperlink exhibits, and create bundles that include full size, condensed, and word indexes. We create these paperless PDF bundles for all clients. We still have clients that want paper and Etran as well.

Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, of Nashville, Tenn.: For cross-CAT platform use, our company uses Min-U-Script.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Wayzata, Minn.: After testing several programs, we decided that YesLaw was the best program for our needs. It’s easy to link the exhibits, and the transcripts look great. An added benefit is the transcript generator software integrates with their video synchronization tool so it is a good program to have in case you ever decide to try video/transcript syncing.

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Mobile, Ala.: I use Min-U-Script Pro. It’s easy to use, and the final product looks great! Support is available and very helpful as well.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, from Memphis, Tenn.: I use Min-U-Script and absolutely love it! The exhibit linking is another great feature of this particular software. You may add in multiple users, along with their signatures and notary seals for electronically signing the transcripts. I can’t say enough good about it.

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Fayetteville, Ark.: I currently use YesLaw for all the reasons already mentioned: It’s very user-friendly, and they have good customer service. You can link exhibits, provide a link to the attorneys for them to download the transcript in every imaginable format (although you have to manually create and include the ptx version, which I would love to see YesLaw incorporate like Stenograph did in their CaseCAT), and all the attorneys have to do is click the link to download/save to their computer. It also has lock-out restrictions if needed, such as to send for read/sign only.

Send your questions about realtime and technology to the technology committee members at jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

LearnToCaption.com offers Translation Tune-Up for court reporters

LearnToCaption.com is now offering Translation Tune-Up, a webinar and a half hour of one-on-one training to help court reporters learn to cut editing time in half.

Read more.

TechLinks: The 2018 guide to Windows 10

Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 to the public almost four years ago, in September 2014. For people who are not early adopters and take a wait-and-see approach, now is the time to safely upgrade, especially if you’re purchasing a new computer. Here are a few good things to know.

Getting set up

Windows 10 Home users can’t defer updates like Pro users, but no one can put them off forever, and nor should they. Many of the updates contain important security patches and bug fixes.

Committee member Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, shares an article from SearchMaster titled, “Windows 10 and the Court Reporting Profession.” The article advises not upgrading to Windows 10 but instead suggests using what you are on until you need another computer and then setting up 10 on a new computer.

“My recommendation on upgrading to Windows 10 is to not do it,” says author Scott Friend. “Stick with whatever operating system you have right now because that is what your computer was designed to work with.”  Later in the article, he adds: “Purchasing a new computer with Windows 10 already installed on it is perfectly safe, and I would encourage you to do this.”

Kleinschmidt also recommended PC Magazine’s “10 reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10.”

“The five reasons I felt pertained most to reporting:  Startup speed and speed overall; ability to access and download from the App Store; touch screen; browser, Edge, started to drain your battery less than Chrome; and 10 is generally a more secure system,” says Kleinschmidt.

“As court reporters, we certainly don’t need our operating system to be updating right before we start our jobs,” says NCRA Technology and Realtime Resources Committee Chair, Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR. “Be sure to schedule the updates on your schedule. I love the metered connection option!”

Mueller recommended an article from TechAdvisor, a British website, that explains how to schedule Windows 10 to update when it works for you.

“The No. 1 complaint about Windows 10 is, of course, the continual updates,” says committee member Cheri Sullivan, RPR. She recommended a March 2, 2017, Register article that provides some background on the debate around the update procedures that are imposed by Windows.

The latest bug to come up with Microsoft is connected to the USB and onboard device. A March 6 ZDNet article includes a link that identifies the problem. The Feb. 21 HighDesertDiva offers an alternative fix.

“Let’s face it: Sometimes the Windows updates are not always great for court reporters. Just when you know you have all your settings streamlined and perfected, an update can ruin it all,” says Mueller. The instructions on the Microsoft website offer some information on how the “restore” function can restore your system to when a point when everything was working as expected. This option takes your PC back to an earlier point in time, called a system restore point. Restore points are generated when you install a new app, driver, or Windows update and when you create a restore point manually. Restoring won’t affect your personal files, but it will remove apps, drivers, and updates installed after the restore point was made.

Mueller says: “I know this link is a little bit older, but it is still relevant.” She also suggested an article on how to reset Windows 10 with Refresh Tool.

Don’t forget to activate an antivirus program. TechAdvisor notes that Windows Defender, which Mueller says is her chosen antivirus program and is built into the Windows suite, “now uses the power of the cloud to more quickly detect threats, and you can also perform offline scans. It’s on by default (if no other antivirus software was pre-loaded on your computer) and it does a great job, scoring highly in our roundup of the best free antivirus software.

Optimize your setup

TechAdvisor also offers information on how to keep your computer running at top-notch speed by controlling your startup programs.

DriverEasy.com gave advice on troubleshooting your microphone setup, which can be useful for audio sync users, especially those who have new computers.

Kleinschmidt suggested a TechAdvisor article that explains Virtual Desktops, which is now very easy through Windows 10, and which reporters may find useful.

If you want a magnifier tool, this New York Times article has you covered. And if you want to tweak your start menu, try this one, also from the New York Times.

TechRepublic offers some suggestions on new features that are available for 2018.

ITPro Newsletter identifies “17 Windows 10 problems – and how to fix them.” Sullivan pointed to several that are pertinent to court reporters:

  • 2, Can’t upgrade to latest Windows 10
  • 4, Windows update isn’t working
  • 5, Turn off forced updates in Windows Pro
  • 8, Enable system restore
  • 11, Fix slow boot times
  • 14, Stop Windows 10 using 4G data

New online automated booking platform gains popularity

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a press release issued Feb. 13, eCourt Reporters announced that its automated online scheduling platform is growing in use. The software was launched seven months ago.

Read more.

TechLinks: Using tech to reach your 2018 goals

NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is getting 2018 off to a tech-savvy start for NCRA members. It pays to keep up with the latest, and the members of the committee pulled together a great grouping of resources to aid you.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer from Portland, Ore., and a member of the committee, recommends getting your tech organized. “I have so many zipper bags,” said Nodland. “I have my MiFi and charger in one. I have my Shark multi-port charger with power cord and extra cables in another. I have my display port adapters and HDMI cables in another.” She sent along an article from Lifehacker offering suggestions on what to include in your tech dopp kit.

Nodland also suggested a trio of articles that help get you set up for the year. Attorney At Work suggested tips for dealing with tech based on your business goals for the year – everything from going paperless to building a new website. PC World offered a list of the top USB portable chargers for your phone, the perfect accessory for anyone constantly on the go. PC World also has a list of their top-rated laptops from 2017.

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner based in Fayetteville, Ark., and another member of the committee, forwarded an article from AmateurRadio.com, which explained the functions of different colored USB ports, including the tip that a yellow or red port will allow you to charge a phone or tablet from your laptop battery, even if the computer is sleeping.

TechLinks: Best gadgets of 2017

Who doesn’t love finding that perfect gadget that makes things so much easier? Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer from Portland, Ore., and a member of the NCRA Technology Committee, has a few suggestions from around the Web for monitor mounts, audio recording, webcams, surge protectors, and apps.

“I love my dual monitors,” says Nodland. “I have one landscape orientation and one portrait. I can edit and have exhibits up at the same time.” A monitor mount will help keep screens organized and at an ergonomic eye level. This guide by How-To Geek will help you figure out how to pick the right monitor mount for your setup.

“Every now and then, we need a solution for rerecording audio for a number of reasons,” says Nodland. She recommends another article by How-To Geek about recording sound coming from your PC. The article has three solutions, two of which use software solutions and one “relies on an old trick that connects your computer’s audio output to its audio input with an audio cable.”

“We’ve noticed a pattern after years of notebook testing: Built-in webcams generally stink,” says Andrew E. Freedman in an article for Laptop Mag reviewing the best webcams. Use a webcam for an upcoming NCRA Skills Test, a webconferenced deposition, or as a way to talk to remote clients.

“I am very protective of my surge protector,” says Nodland, and anyone who has suddenly lost power just before saving a file can relate. This article by Wirecutter reviews a surge protector with a fail-proof method of letting you know when it’s time to replace it.

And finally, to cover all your bases, Wirecutter has the best tech and apps for your home office. “You don’t need the thinnest, lightest, or most elegantly designed items for your home office,” says the Wirecutter team. “In the space you make your living, you want reliable, comfortable, efficient tools — though it doesn’t hurt if they look nice, too.” The review includes storage and backup solutions, laptops and phone docks, routers and modems, productivity and finance apps, and more.

TechLinks: Using Windows 10 and Dropbox

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, who served on the 2016-2017 NCRA Technology Committee, shared a few links for getting the most out of Windows 10 and Dropbox.

In an April 17 article for Computerworld, Woody Leonhard shares the top 30 free apps for Windows 10 (just to be clear: these are for a computer). “Whether you’re a grizzled Windows victim or a faltering Windows ingénue, these programs should be at the top of your list,” says Leonhard. The apps include an incremental file backup, a tool for bringing back deleted files, an online calling/messaging program (that’s not Skype), a to-do list program, and more.

Still a Windows 10 newbie? For the one-year anniversary of the new update, Brad Chacos rounded up the 10 best new features of Windows 10 for PCWorld. These features, including the Start menu, Cortana, and The Edge browser, are all good to explore first if you’re still making your way into the Microsoft upgrade.

Finally, in a post for Hongkiat, Ashutosh KS shares 15 tips to get more out of Dropbox (plus a bonus). “I often thought Dropbox as a simple cloud storage service that you can use to save and share your files and folders,” he says. “But as I started digging deeper into its functionalities, I found myself nothing but wrong. This cloud service is so full of surprises and has many more features than you already know of.” These features include working on files as a team, accessing files without internet, and sharing screenshots on the fly.