Law Office Software of the Month – Microsoft’s Mouse Without Borders

matrix-podsThere are times, usually when I encounter some amazing software or incredible piece of technology, that I think The Matrix got it right. We are all suspended in goo somewhere, and what we perceive as reality is merely a computer construct.

Okay, perhaps I’m overstating the case, but when I first used Microsoft’s Mouse Without Borders (“MWB”), which is a FREE program, it seemed too magical to be true. I will say up front that there is a very narrow set of circumstances that would make this software useful to anyone, but it is truly awesome if you fall within that group. Here are two potential uses:

Use a laptop as an extra screen

In this article I have already explained the leap in efficiency you enjoy when using multiple monitors. I also explain that I don’t think a laptop is the best choice for your primary office computer, one reason being that while you can run multiple monitors off of a laptop, it’s a kludgy system to have to set that up every time you start your day.

But if you have an old laptop, MWB let’s you use that laptop as an extra screen. You simply install the free software on both computers, and then your same mouse and keyboard control both.

It’s not an extra monitor in the literal sense because you can’t drag a running window from your desktop computer to the laptop. But that is kind of a distinction without a difference because you can just run whatever program you want on the laptop. Let me give you a typical example of how I use MWB that will illustrate the point.

I use an all-in-one computer in my home office. I love the form factor of an all-in-one because there is no tower to deal with and minimal cords. I can add a second monitor using the HDMI output, but then that defeats the clean look of the single monitor sitting on my desk.

But there are times when I am preparing brief at home that I want three windows open. Let’s say I’m preparing a motion for summary judgment. I want one window for Westlaw, another for the motion I am creating, and a third with a declaration I have prepared, so I can weave references from the declaration into the motion. My all-in-one has a nice big 24 inch monitor, so I can open Westlaw and WordPerfect on that monitor, but what about the declaration?

For that, I just set my laptop beside my monitor, open the declaration, turn on MWB, and I’m off to the races. The keyboard and mouse that I use for my all-in-one now also control the laptop; just like it was a extra monitor. I can copy and paste text to and from the desktop and laptop. MWB even allows you to set the relative positions of the screens, so if my laptop is to the right of my desktop monitor, that’s the way the mouse moves.

Use MWB as a virtual KVM switch

On occasion I have the need to access two computers at the same time. One such instance is when I buy a new computer, and I’m making the transition of software and data from my old computer. During the transition, I like to have both computers running so that if I have a need for a program I haven’t transferred yet, it is available to me. I could use the program list from the old computer as a checklist to make sure that every program has been transferred, but I find this two computer system to be less taxing. I can remain productive while I wean myself off the old computer.

This has always been possible using a KVM switch, which stands for keyboard, video, mouse. With a KVM switch, you can switch between two computers, but MWB is much better suited, because both are visible at the same time. I use four monitors at the office. For the transition, I plug one into the old computer, and the three remaining monitors into the new computer. Since I am using the same keyboard and mouse, the fact that I am using two computers becomes almost transparent. When I tried to call up some information from my catch-all program Notescraps, and realized that I hadn’t installed it on the new computer, I just moved my mouse to the screen of the old computer, did the same search, and up it popped.

Speaking of Notescraps, I arranged for all my readers to get this great program for FREE. Just go to my review of Notescraps for the information.

Quick Tips: Replacing a Computer with Almost No Downtime

At least for me, when a computer dies, the biggest pain in the keister is not the cost of a new unit, but the much greater expense in terms of time spent installing all the necessary programs and drivers to get it back on par with the computer it is replacing. Inevitably I pull out my the installation CD to install, say, Outlook, and I find that the license code card is missing. Then, since I use four different monitors with either landscape or portrait orientation, I have to set all those up within Windows settings. There are dozens of these tweaks. Sometimes months after I have installed a new computer, I’ll go to call up some program that I seldom use, only to find that it never got installed on the new system.

So when the inevitable happens and your computer finally dies, here are two systems I have come up with to minimize the pain of having to replace a computer:

Keep all your software and license codes in one place (or two).

At least when it comes to reinstalling my software, I’ve taken a lot of pain out of that process by keeping all of the software and license codes in my dropbox. I almost never receive a physical copy of the installation disc for any software I purchase. If I purchase software on Amazon, I receive only an electronic download version, and Amazon maintains a download library and all the license codes for all the software I’ve ever purchased.

In the case of other software that I buy directly from the publisher, such as the Dragon software I bought from Nuance which I’m using to create this article, that too comes only as a downloaded electronic version. In those instances, the publishers will attempt to make extra money by charging a fee to maintain that download for you on their server. I skip the fee and instead immediately transfer a copy of the software to my dropbox. At the same time, I create a PDF document with the license code and place that in the dropbox as well. In the (now) rare cases that the software came on an installation disc, I cut and paste the license code onto a label and stick it on the disc.

Now when it comes time to configure a new computer, I first go to my Amazon account and download all the software I purchased there, and next visit my dropbox for the same purpose. I finish up with the physical discs.

Very rarely I’ll run into an error message, stating that I’ve already reached my license limit, but a call to technical support to explain that this is not an additional installation, but rather is an installation on a new computer, has always solved the problem.

Buy the identical computer and swap the hard drive.

I had this brilliant rainstorm recently, and it permitted me to avoid all of the above and replace a broken computer with almost no downtime.

One might think you can avoid software and driver installation issues by simply pulling out your old hard drive and slapping it into a new computer, but that really doesn’t work. The new computer will have different hardware (video cards, sound card, etc.), so you’ll still be faced with having to update many drivers. Worse, Windows keeps people from installing its operating system on multiple computers by tying the installation to the hardware. When your registered copy of Windows wakes up in a new computer with different internal hardware, it assumes you are trying to pull a fast one and at a minimum makes you reactivate Windows.

But I beat the system. I had an uber powerful HP computer that I really liked, and way before its time the mother board crapped out. I could probably replace the mother board (and still may do so), but what a costly hassle. HP doesn’t offer that particular model anymore, but I went on Craigslist and found the exact same model. I paid about $1,800 for the computer new, but this replacement was listed for just $400, and I negotiated him down to $300. I put the old hard drive from my computer into the “new” one, and fired it up. Windows woke up, looked around, saw all the old familiar hardware, and loaded without complaint. All my programs were ready to go.

It turned out that the computer has an easy pop-out system for the hard drive, which made it even less painless. In about five minutes (plus the five minutes it took me to do a search on Craigslist and negotiate with the seller), I was up and running. (If interested, write to me and I’ll tell you how I’ll actually end up turning a profit on the deal.)

Bottom line: Start your computer break-down insurance policy now by putting all your software installation files and license codes in one place. And in the event of a breakdown, assuming you were using a decent computer in the first place and that the problem is not your hard drive, see if you can find the exact model and just swap the hard drive.

Why this Lawyer Loves His Apple Watch — Top 9 Favorite Benefits

seiko message watch

I seem to have this need to date myself, but I will confess that my love affair with smart watches actually started back in the 1990s, with my Seiko Message Watch. It was basically a pager, but it could show text messages from my office and family, along with stock prices, sports scores, and weather forecasts – all right on my wrist. The thing that made it far more functional to me than a standard pager was the subtlety factor. Looking at a belt pager for a message was a pretty blatant act, but with a watch, I was never out of contact with my office or family, even during a trial, because a quick glance at a watch is socially acceptable (and fully expected during a trial since you must be ever aware of the clock). When Seiko cancelled the service, I was crestfallen.

Now, some 20 years later, technology has finally returned me to this former glory.

Apple-WatchFor those of you unfamiliar with the very nature of an Apple Watch (which was me until I got one), it is primarily an adjunct to your iPhone. At least that's the way is started, but with the introduction of the Apple Watch 3, the watch is now far more standalone, even allowing phone calls without the assistance of your iPhone. But even if you use the Watch only as an adjunct to your iPhone, it is well worth the purchase price.

In my opinion, the single most important feature of the Apple Watch is its location (i.e., sitting right there on your wrist). Almost everything I do on the Watch could be done with my iPhone, but I can do it without pulling out my phone (or even necessarily knowing where it is).

An example just presented itself while I was typing that prior paragraph. I have set up a news service to send me important news updates. My Watch just tapped my wrist to let me know there was in incoming message. Without even pausing from my typing, I looked at my wrist and saw that there are big doings in Washington. Interesting, but not worth stopping what I’m doing in order to pull out my iPhone, hit the button, wait for it to recognize my fingerprint, and then try to figure out which app caused my iPhone to ding. I just saved myself 8 seconds.

It’s dozens of little incidents such as that that add up to some significant time and annoyance savings throughout the day.

“But you should wait and check your phone only once or twice a day, and in that way you would not be having to pull out your phone multiple times,” say the naysaying efficiency experts. To that I respond that earlier today I saw (on my wrist) a call coming in from my wife, who was in a bit of a panic because her (friggin’ new) car had just broken down on the freeway. While she was dealing with calling AAA, she needed me to help deal with a couple of emergencies the break down had created. Would you naysayers have preferred that I left my wife stressed and stranded on the freeway in the name of “only check your phone twice a day” efficiency? Well, would you?! If your answer is no (as it better be), then I am back to pulling out my phone (or finding it on my desk) multiple times a day to see if that is the sort of call that is coming in.

Apple is kind of famous for creating a product, and then letting the public find a use for it. There were many critics when the iPad was released, stating it was just an “over-sized iPhone”, but history has shown the utility of that little gadget.

So it is with the Apple Watch. I read many articles questioning why you would need a smart watch when you can accomplish the same tasks simply by pulling out your smart phone. The simple answer is that I don't want to always be pulling out and/or holding my iPhone. While wearing the Apple Watch, I can confidently leave my iPhone in my briefcase or pocket (or now, with version 3, at home!), without fear of missing a time sensitive call or text.

So therein are the most important features for lawyers – communication, convenience and time saving. If you are looking for an article on how the Apple Watch prepares jury instructions or offers complete case management on your wrist, I can’t offer you that (yet). But here are the top 9 reasons this lawyer loves his Apple Watch, all of which make my days a little more pleasant and efficient:

1. Being able to make and answer phone calls without pulling out my iPhone (or even knowing where it is).

Totally Dick Tracy. My Watch vibrates and/or rings, and displays the name of the person calling. I can dismiss or answer the call right on my wrist. Whether this is something you will use is of course dependent on your circumstances, especially since it is a speaker phone sort of interaction. I hope we don’t devolve into a society where everyone on the elevator is having a public two-way conversation with their wrists.

But where I really appreciate this feature is when I want my hands free. I’m kind of a monosyllabic guy, so for me most personal phone calls are listening experiences. If I’m doing something around the house, I can take a call and keep on doing what I’m doing. With a cell phone, I either have to stick a Bluetooth thingy in my ear or hold the phone with one hand if I’m moving around (I can’t stand wired earbuds).

Making calls is equally impressive. While working at my computer, I got a hankering to go to a Lazy Dog restaurant that night, so I searched for the closest one and looked up the number. Without taking my eyes from the screen, I just lifted my wrist and said, “Hey Siri, call 7147319700”, and a few seconds later I was talking to the hostess on my wrist (a tiiiiiny little hostess). I then realized that for a known business, looking up the number is a wasted step. Now I know to just say, “Hey Siri, call the closest Lazy Dog,” and it shows up on my Watch, ready to dial.

No one on the other end of a call has ever noticed or complained about my wrist calls, but the volume from the Watch is pretty low, so you can only take calls in quiet locations.

2. Being able to receive and respond to text messages.

Responding to texts is soooo much faster with the Watch than with the iPhone. “But how can you type a message on that little screen?”, you may ask. The answer is, you don’t.

When you receive a text, you can respond with one of several canned responses (yes, no, thanks, I’ll call you back, kiss my ass, etc.) or, and here’s the fun part, you can respond verbally, and then elect to either send that response as text or a voice response. In situations where I can't verbally dictate a response, and none of the canned responses really work, I can write a response with my finger, and the Watch translates it to text. A very cool option.

It doesn’t rate a “top 9″, but I also like being able to see emails as they come in. Technically, I could read the email and dictate a response, but it’s a little too kludgy for me. I don’t even like responding to emails on my iPhone. But just seeing the subject line appear on your Watch can give you added warning of any crucial emails that require attention. Don’t worry; you won’t see every dang spam email that comes to your inbox. You can set your Watch to only show emails from the people you have deemed to be important.

3. Being able to find my iPhone.

Come on, be honest, how often do you have to look around for your cell phone? If never, then you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. With the Watch, you push an icon on the screen and your iPhone begins to ding. I use that feature A LOT.

4. The ability to control podcasts, music or audiobooks.

I absorb many podcasts and audiobooks. In this case, I do stick a Bluetooth thingy in my ear so that I can listen to whatever I want while shopping, working around the house, or jogging (like that’s gonna happen). The Watch has a “now playing” screen that controls whatever you are listing to. You can pause, skip and adjust the volume.

Again, this screen controls WHATEVER is playing, but you can also access specific audio apps through the Watch. If I’m listening to Pandora, I can switch between stations — even create a new station — and give Stairway to Heaven a thumbs up, all on my Watch.

For all I know it may have just been a setting I never switched on,  but with version 4.0 of the Watch iOS, the controls became far more impressive and functional. Now, no matter what I am listening to on my iPhone, it appears on my watch face (assuming you have added that to your watch face). I can then tap the item, and the display switches to whatever app is playing that media (Pandora, Amazon Music, Netflix, etc.) Once there, that becomes the default view, so every time I flip my wrist to look at my watch, I am presented with the controls for whatever I am listening to.

In my pre-Watch days (those very dark days), if I was, say, listening to a podcast and my wife started talking to me, I'd have to hold up a finger to indicate she needed to hold that thought, pull out my iPhone, press the button, log onto the phone, navigate to the podcast app, hit the pause button, and say, “OK, now we can talk.” By about the fourth time that happen in a day, my wife would start saying, “Oh never mind!” Now I just flick my wrist, touch the screen to pause the podcast, and join the conversation. The Watch may well have saved my marriage.

Speaking of podcasts, I use an app called Overcast as my podcast player, and it is fully functional on the Watch. The advantage of Overcast is that it has what it calls “effects” that you can apply to any podcast, including the abilities to speed up the playback (while still maintaining a perfectly normal sounding voice) and to eliminate long pauses. However, I think this effects may be taking a toll. After using Overcast for a couple of years now, I feel like everyone I talk to is talking waaaay tooooo slooooow.

If you're interested, at the end of this article I explain the setup I use that allows me to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, sports or whatever, anytime I find myself killing time; even while waiting in court.

5. So much information on my watch face.

I touched on this already. For each of your apps, you can decide which ones will display information on your Watch (assuming the app has been made Watch compatible, which is more and more the case). So, in addition to texts and phone calls, I can see updates to sport scores, weather, Amazon package deliveries, or whatever.

I especially like the Watch's integration with the Maps app. I use my iPhone as a navigation unit in my car (which has a nav unit, but it doesn't do real-time traffic). When I enter a location, the iPhone automatically makes my Watch a part of the process. When it comes time to make a turn, the Watch taps my wrist and makes a turn signal sound, with the sound differing depending on whether it is a left or right turn. This tactile (also called Haptic) feedback has kept me from missing many a turn.

6. Instant access to Siri.

With the Apple Watch, Siri is ready at your beck and call, and with Apple Watch 3, she talks back.

Billy BobBilly Bob Thorton comes on TV, and I notice he’s really aged. I lift my Watch and say, “Hey Siri, how old is Billy Bob Thorton?” She responds that he’s only about six months older than me, and I get really depressed. I couldn’t have gotten depressed nearly that fast if I had to pull out my iPhone.

Siri is also great for reminders and appointments. I sometimes prefer location reminders over reminders based on time. Siri knows where I live and work, so if I remember a task while I'm getting ready in the morning, I just lift my wrist and say, “remind me when I get to work that I need to call Joe Dokes” and it will do just that.

Siri works far better on Apple Watch 3 than it ever did on the iPhone (or on prior versions of the Watch). With my iPhone, when I am setting a reminder for example, there is a pause while I wait for Siri to respond, and a pause while I wait for Siri to process the request. With the Watch, it is instantaneous. For some reason it is also much quicker and certain to respond to the “Hey Siri” prompt. Also, you can now add a Siri button to the watch face.

7. Being able to pay for purchases.

This really happened to me; like something out of a commercial. I have Apple Pay set up on my iPhone and Watch. I thought the Watch feature was just for convenience, allowing me to pay for a purchase without taking out my iPhone, but still dependent on having the iPhone nearby.

I was checking out at a store, and realized I’d left my iPhone in the car. I gave my Watch a try anyway, and it worked just fine. You need to set up Apple Pay in the Apple Watch app, but once done, service will continue to work even when your iPhone is absent. A unique token that acts as your card number is stored on Apple Watch, allowing you use Apple Pay with just your Watch. Just hold your watch near the terminal, and Apple Pay automatically appears. You can then scroll to whichever card you want to use.

The Passbook feature is also available on the Watch, so anything you have stored in it, such as electronic tickets, Starbucks cards, boarding passes, gift cards, and anything else that is scannable, should work with just your Watch.

8. The health benefits.

Here is one example where the iPhone cannot do what the Watch does. With its ability to monitor my heart rate, it can go far beyond all the fitness apps that rely only on the accelerometer of the iPhone, which can only track steps in order to offer a very rough estimate of activity.

I use the MyFitnessPal app to track my caloric intake and exercise. It pulls activity information from the Watch and uses it to calculate the calories I burn. The calories I’ve burned show up in the calculation, so I know if I’m entitled to an extra lettuce wrap.

9. Adjusting my thermostats.

This little feature has more than paid for the Watch.

I have ecobee thermostats in my home, which permit me to communicate with them from anywhere in the world. From my Watch, I can set different temperatures upstairs and downstairs, or turn off the heating/cooling altogether. Again, like most everything on this list, I can also do this from my iPhone, but perhaps because of the gadget factor or just the increased convenience, I find myself using this feature far more often with my Watch, and thereby saving money on utilities. More than once, I’ve pulled out of the garage, realized that I was the last one to leave, and with a flip of my wrist I can turn up the temp to minimize the AC. Ecobee thermostats actually have sensors that will eventually figure out that no one is home, and raise the temp, but the Watch makes the process instantaneous. When I head home, I use my Watch to turn the temp back down, so it’s cool when I arrive.

You can control any number of smart home features with your Watch, such as lights and even shades.

Things you can do with your Watch without your iPhone.

Although you need your iPhone nearby to do many things with Apple Watch, there are things you can do when you don’t have your iPhone with you or when it’s turned off:

  • Play music from a synced playlist on Apple Watch
  • Use the watch, alarms, timers, and the stopwatch
  • Track your activity with the Activity app
  • Track workouts using the Workout app
  • Display photos from synced photo albums in the Photos app

Apple Watch uses Bluetooth® wireless technology to connect to its paired iPhone and uses the iPhone for many wireless functions. Apple Watch can’t configure Wi-Fi networks on its own, but it can connect to Wi-Fi networks you’ve set up or connected to using the paired iPhone.

If your Apple Watch is in range of a Wi-Fi network that iPhone has connected to before, you can still do the following (even if iPhone is turned off):

  • Use Siri
  • Send and receive Digital Touch messages
  • Send and receive messages using iMessage
  • Make and receive phone calls (if you have Wi-Fi calling enabled and you’re within range of a Wi-Fi network that your iPhone has connected to before).

One final note about the Watch. I received mine as a gift from my wife, who, bless her little penny-pinching heart, bought the basic Apple Watch Sport. Every model of the Watch is by necessity a little nerdy looking, since it is a tiny computer monitor on your wrist. Any style, such as it is, comes from the watch band. The bands sold by Apple are ridiculously priced, but thankfully the aftermarket has stepped up. The photo shows the band I purchased for about $20, which is far more stylish than the original sport band, and far easier to put on and take off with its magnetic clasp. It's the most comfortable watch band I've ever owned, because it is infinitely adjustable, as opposed to being a set size or limited to a given number of holes. No more feeling like my watch is slipping off my wrist or is too tight.


The Information Junkie's Secret Setup

As I promised, here is the setup I use to enable me to use my otherwise wasted time to listen to podcasts, audiobooks and sportscasts.

It involves an iPhone, Apple Watch, and a Bluetooth earbud. Nothing revolutionary there, but with the Apple Watch and a particular earbud, it all becomes very incognito and much more efficient.

As stated, when I'm walking, running, shopping, or waiting in line, I use that time to absorb information. I find any kind of wired connection to my cell phone to be annoying, so I just wanted a small Bluetooth earbud I could stick in my ear. After testing a number of different models, I came across one called the Tronfy, which fits the bill perfectly, and is actually better than anything I had envisioned.

The Tronfy earbud paired flawlessly with my iPhone, and I really like that it uses verbal prompts. It tells you when it powers on, when it links, and when it powers off; no need to look at lights or remember what “beep bop boop” means. An unexpected surprise was the “VoiceDial” feature. I've had this on other Bluetooth headsets, but this one activates Siri. The entire face of the earbud is a button. Press the button once, and it pauses whatever I am listening to. Hold down the button for a second or two, and it switches to VoiceDial mode (and tells you that it has done so). Yes, you can then ask Siri to make a call, but you can also use any of Siri's features. Thus, without the iPhone ever leaving my back pocket, I can send text messages, have my text messages read to me, check the weather, etc. I'm sure most Bluetooth headsets now have this ability, but somehow it is cooler that I can do it all with just this little thing in my ear.

Again it's probably standard technology and I just missed the memo, but this works amazingly with my car's Bluetooth. If I'm listening to a podcast on my cell phone with the earbud, and start my car, the podcast switches to the car's Bluetooth. When I arrive at where I'm going and leave the car, the podcast starts playing in my ear again. I don't recall such a seamless hand-off experience with other Bluetooth headsets I've used.

It comes with ear hooks, and an assortment of sizes of the rubber part that goes in your ear, including one that that is twice as long as the others to really hold on. I must have the perfect sized ear canal or something because the pre-installed one fits me. I don't use the hook and the earbud stays put with no problem.

The Tronfy is small and most people don't notice I'm wearing it. The Apple Watch then completes the incognito equation because I can control whatever I'm listening to without ever looking at my iPhone. If you want to listen in both ears, it comes with a strap that connects to an even smaller earbud in your other ear.

OK, now I'm really going to let my nerd flag fly. Because I belong to Kindle Unlimited, I have about 800,000 books that I want to read, and they are all available to me for free (well, for the price of the subscription). The Kindle Fire models have a text-to-speech feature that can be used to “read” most ebooks. Trouble is, the text-to-speech feature works only on Kindles. Even though you can read an ebook on your iPhone or computer, you can't use the text-to-speech feature on those devices.

So that I could listen to Kindle ebooks while going about my life, I bought the smallest Kindle available, which is the Kindle HD 6 (about $69). I toss the Kindle 6 in my back pocket, fire up my Tronfy, and I'm good to go.

That however presented its own problem. If I use the same Tronfy for my Kindle and iPhone, then when I turn on the Tronfy, intending to listen to something on my Kindle, the Tronfy links to the iPhone. I was having to set my iPhone to airplane mode temporarily while I linked to my Kindle. Too much of a hassle.

The solution was to buy another Tronfy, and pair it only with the Kindle. I just carry two of the small earbuds, and pull out the one I need, depending on what I am listening to. I know; pretty nerdy. But I wear an Apple Watch, so what did you expect?

Law Office Software of the Month — BatteryBar Pro (and it’s FREE!)

image of batterybar proHere is a great little laptop battery utility I have been testing. I found it so essential, that it's now on all my laptops.

Windows offers an icon that can show you the percentage of charge left in your laptop battery. I feel like it will also give an estimate of the time remaining on your battery, but in preparing this article I couldn't get that information to display.

In any event, BatteryBar Pro displays in your taskbar at the bottom of your screen, and provides far more information than does the Windows battery icon.

To start, it shows the remaining charge in your laptop battery, and if your computer is plugged in, shows the time remaining until it reaches a full charge. I would have never thought I needed this latter feature, but when I'm headed out to a few hours of writing at an ocean side coffee shop (for some reason the roar of the ocean and the hubbub of the coffee shop is the perfect backdrop for writing), it's nice to see how much longer I have until the battery is fully charged. BatterBar gives the specific time the battery will be fully charged. If only a few minutes are left, I may have a cup of coffee and wait for a full charge. (I often have a coffee before heading out for coffee. It's a sickness, I know.) That's far better that seeing only that the battery is 97% charged, with no indication how long the remaining 3% will take.

An awareness of battery life is a good thing. I don't like worrying about the availability of an AC outlet. At one particular Barnes & Noble I frequent, getting a seat near an AC outlet in the café is about as likely as spotting a Yeti in the romance aisle (they prefer to hang out near the magazines). I have an ultrabook that will get me through an entire depo without charging, but I also have a beautiful 17-inch HP laptop that I prefer to use for writing, but it's charge only lasts about 3.5 hours. The intended task and the battery life dictates which one I take.

Based on my experience, BatteryBar offers a much more accurate reading than the Windows utility. It maintains historical information on how long it takes your battery to charge and discharge, which apparently enables it to be far more accurate.

BatteryBar also displays the capacity of your battery in milliwatt-hours (mWh). This can be useful if you have multiple batteries with no obvious indication of their relative sizes.

But the final feature is what I find really killer. It is able to determine what it calls the “battery wear” of your battery. You have probably experienced the reality that your laptop just doesn't go as long as it used to. That's because rechargeable batteries only last so long, and soon they can no longer hold a full charge (or at least don't hold a charge as long). BatteryBar shows how much of your battery's storage power has been lost. For example, in the picture, you can see that the battery has a stated size of 86,580 mWh, but 31.7% of that has been lost. This information let's you know it might be time to get a new battery (or to start taking two).

BatteryBar Pro offers a free version that is really all you need, but if you are a power user (get it?), there is an upgraded version that contains additional features, including customizable icons, low battery warnings and easy access to the Windows power schemes. This upgrade supposedly costs $8 for a lifetime license, but there appears to be a perpetual 50% off offer. Go here (not an affiliate link) to download BatteryBar Pro for free, to see if you like it as much as I do.

How To Get Back a Closed Tab

I might be the only one who does this, but I was very excited to learn this shortcut.

When using Chrome (this also works for Internet Explorer and Firefox), I soon accumulate so many tabs across the top of the browser that I can't tell what's what. I then start closing tabs and occasionally realize that I just closed the tab with the case I found after a long search session. To bring back a closed tab, just hit Ctrl-Shift-T and voilà, it's back.