Graphics & design software

Tools for Your Virtual Office From Hassle-Free PC

Create a 'Yellow Highlighter' Effect in Your Screenshots

Have you ever wondered how I'm able to create that "yellow highlighter" effect in screenshots, like the one in a recent Hassle-Free blog post? Really, you have? Wow, you need to get out more.

Actually, it's pretty handy little effect, great for calling out key areas of a business document or even certain photos. To apply it, all you need is one of my all-time favorite tools: IrfanView.

This freeware image editor offers quick-and-easy cropping, resizing, rotating, and special effects. It can open just about any image format known to humankind and save to just about any other format.

Plus, it's a tiny program that loads in an instant and consumes very little RAM. And did I mention that it's free? Here's how to create the highlighter effect:

  1. Open the image you want to modify.
  2. Draw a box around the area you want to highlight. (It needs to have a white background if the effect is to work properly.) If necessary, resize the box by dragging any of its four sides.
  3. Select Image, Color corrections (or press Shift-G).
  4. In the Color balance section, click the B slider and drag it all the way to the left.

Presto! Everything in your box should turn a bright, highlighter yellow. Now just save the image (giving it a different name if you want to preserve the original) and you're done.

Make Paper Documents Digital Without a Scanner

Drowning in paper? Don't have time to feed hundreds of documents into your scanner? A Web service called Pixily will turn your hard copies into electronic documents you can store, share, and search online.

Sounds cool, right? There's just one hitch: You have to ship your documents to the company for scanning. That may be a turn-off for some folks.

However, there's much to be said for letting someone else do the heavy paperless-office lifting. Just stuff your documents into a prepaid envelope or box, then send it to Pixily. The service scans the stack, adds the e-docs to your online account, then ships the originals back to you.

When you sign into your account, you can browse, organize, and even search your documents. You can also share them with others and download them in PDF format if you need local copies. Want to add digital documents of your own? Just upload them to your library.

A free Pixily account entitles you to up to 200 pages of scanning and online storage, though you'll have to foot the bill for shipping. Same goes for the $4.95-per-month plan, which raises the page cap to 1,000. You can get free shipping (and more storage) with some of the higher-priced plans, which start at $14.95.

Ditch Your Fax Machine

It's rare these days that I need to send or receive a fax, but it does happen. However, you won't find a fax machine on my desk--I rely on two Web tools for all my faxing needs.

eFax Free: I've had the same free eFax number for as long as I can remember. Seriously, it's probably been 10 years. When you sign up for one of your own, you get a randomly selected fax number. Inbound faxes arrive in your e-mail inbox; eFax's software lets you open, view, save, and print them.

FaxZero: Need to send a fax? eFax charges for the privilege (you need a Plus or Pro account), but FaxZero lets you send faxes for, well, zero. Just enter the recipient's name and fax number, then browse your hard drive for any Word document or PDF. (Use your scanner's scan-to-PDF option if your document is still in analog form.) Documents must be no longer than three pages, and the recipient will find an ad on the cover page--but the price is right. For $1.99, you can fax an ad-free document of up to 15 pages.

There are other freebie fax services out there, but I've had great luck with these two. Mostly, of course, I just e-mail everything.

Rick Broida writes PC World's Hassle-Free PC blog. Sign up to have Rick's newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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