Monday, July 27, 2009

Five 5-min savers

Pic Source: Microsoft Clipart

If you are perpetually wondering why your office laptop/desktop functions slower than Charles Babbage’s prototype, you are certainly not alone. The 5 tools listed below should help you speed up some of the most uninteresting tasks - and still allow you to keep all the wallpapers, games and movies intact! ;)

1. Xobni: For all those who live out of the inbox, Xobni (reverse of inbox) is a welcome relief. Once installed, it takes stock of all your mails and personal folders. It creates a social network of colleagues right in your inbox and you can now easily search for people, conversations and attachments. Other features include integration with LinkedIn, Facebook and Hoovers along with some inbox specific stats for the super-organized folks. Xobni is great time saver when you are looking for a long-forgotten mail chain with hardly any strings to enter in the search fields that are otherwise enabled in MS Outlook. Flip side: slows down the loading of Outlook on first boot.

2. Launchy: Alright, you put as many shortcuts on your desktop as possible, but where does the next one go? Launchy helps you in accessing all your files with minimal hassle and keeps your desktop clutter-free. After installation and initial catalog building, press Alt+Space (customizable) to invoke Launchy. Type in the first few letters of the file, application, folder or URL and hit enter for instant access. Launchy is mouseless, very light, has a compact interface and helps you locate files you didn’t even know resided on your hard disk! Flip side: There is no auto catalog rebuilding and this has to be done manually on a periodic basis.

3. Clear Temp: For most of us, clearing Temporary files is like exercising – we know it is good but we never do it. And on the rare occasions when we do get on to it, the irksome prompt saying some files are currently being used in the session dampens all further enthusiasm. Clear Temp is a small .exe file that cleans all your temp folders in one swipe and closes itself once done. Put it in your startup list of executables and you can forget about clearing temp folders for the rest of your life. Flip side: Doesn’t clean up Recent Docs, Recycle Bin and Registry.

4. Caffeine: You are in the thick of a presentation or on a phone call and lo! Your laptop locks itself as per your organization’s security protocol. To avoid the inconvenience of re-entering your login details/biometrics during such occasions, use Caffeine which is a minuscule .exe that simulates a Shift key press every 59 seconds thereby preventing your system from getting into the lock, screensaver or sleep mode. Flip side: Can’t be customized to run along with specific applications or on a scheduled time.

5. Tweak UI: This is a well-known Microsoft add-on that enables you to customize most features of your PC. Perhaps the one that saves some minutes is the Autologon feature which allows you to do just that into your office network on system startup after you have stored the right username, domain and password. This might not be a great idea if you are using a desktop or a shared laptop but if you are the sole user of your system, this tweak does save a few keystrokes and minimizes instances of failed logins and the more extreme system lockouts depending on how slipshod you can get ;) Flip side: Doesn’t auto-update password when changed.

Not that these tools will give your office PC an edge over the latest Cray XMP build but they’ll certainly make it quicker, this side of a defrag.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Office Jargon Demystified

Like every other tribe under the sun, officedom too comes with a cant unique unto itself. Office lingo is filled with words that sound like a clap of heavenly thunder and almost makes you worship the guy who used it on your uninitiated ears. Seasoned office-goers would find it highly dissatisfying if they don’t get to use some of it a few dozen times everyday.

Unless you are the type who’d like to learn things the hard way, here’s a brief primer of some popular office jargon and their probable undertones: ;)

PFA: An email acronym that stands for ‘Please find attached’. The sender doesn’t want to explain things to you and expects you to learn from the attachment, which is usually a very large document that might take you a decade to wade through.

TIA: An email sign-off that expands to ‘Thanks in Advance’. You are being thanked for an act you are yet to commit, implying that you have no way out but to achieve the expected results. Usually comes with a deadline that is surprisingly within the next 30 min and is ALWAYS accompanied with the PFA as interpreted above.

“Let’s take it offline”: Mostly used in telephonic or video conferences indicating that the thread currently being discussed concerns only a select few attendees. But by the time this great truth is realized, all the rest in the call would have blinked away gallons of yawn-induced tears and dug their nails deep into the underside of the table in a desperate attempt to avoid the embarrassment of falling asleep.

Spare Bandwidth: This is a cunning way of asking if you have ‘additional time’ to complete some extra tasks that no one else wants to do. If you declare that you don’t, it has the uncanny ability of coming back to you with increased load and without an option to reject, this time around.

Urgent and Important: Seen in the subject lines of emails that are just that….for the sender, not you. S/he has now made it your mandate and if you are not careful, you will be doing all of it in your ‘spare bandwidth’.

Gentle Reminder: Again, sent as subject lines of emails to invoke actions to the Urgent and Important activities explained above. The ‘Gentle’ part is mostly restricted to the subject line and as days go by, the content gets ‘gentler and gentler’.

There are a gazillion others, what’s your favorite?