It's been way too long since I've covered useful, free online services. The last time was just before Christmas, when I pointed you to Ebates, a cash-rebate service that gives you money back on purchases. This week I'll tell you how to find user manuals on Retrevo and I'll introduce you to CameraSize.com.
How to Find Digital Copies of Your User Guides
Need the instruction guide for your laptop? Unless you're one of those freakishly organized types, I'll bet you have no idea where it is. Or even if you do, it probably involves a visit to the attic or basement, digging through boxes, and so on. What a hassle.
Why not keep a digital library of your manuals instead? You could store them on your PC, your tablet, your smartphone, or anywhere else that's convenient. You could even keep them in multiple locations--say, in a PDF viewer app on your iPad and in your universally accessible Dropbox account.
Okay, but how can you find the manuals for your printer, monitor, digital camera, and other stuff? You could comb each and every manufacturer's Web site until you find the right one, but I have a better suggestion: head to Retrevo. The site offers downloadable manuals for all kinds of electronics, from calculators and cell phones to TVs and remote controls. The only trick? Finding them.
Retrevo is primarily a shopping portal that's home to a wealth of product prices and reviews. But it also stores more than 100,000 manuals for more than 1,000 brands. When you hit the site, scroll down a bit to the "User Manuals" section.
Click through and you'll see a section called "User Manuals for Popular Brands." Click the brand you're after, or click a letter to search alphabetically. You can also browse by category or search for a particular product (say, an iPhone). When you find the manual you want, you can download it as a PDF.
If that doesn't pan out you can try a Google search for PDFs that match your product make/model. For example, here's a search string for an iPod Touch:
ipod touch user guide filetype:pdf
Once you've amassed your electronic library of manuals, you can toss the paper versions into the circular file.
By the way, I must give credit where credit is due: This idea evolved from a Lifehacker post.
How to Gauge Camera Size Before Ordering Online
In the market for a new digital camera? If you're smart, you'll buy it online, where prices are usually significantly lower than in retail stores.
Just one problem: it's hard to gauge the size of a camera just by looking at a few specs or photos. How does model A really compare with model B? And model C? And models D-Z?
Enter CameraSize.com, a free digital camera comparison tool. True to its name, the site lets you put two camera models side by side to gauge their relative sizes. It also gives you a choice of viewing angles (front, back, top, and left/right, though not all views are available for all models), a choice of colors (where applicable), and, coolest of all, a draggable adult male hand that lets you see how well (or poorly) a camera will fit in your palm.
All you do is choose two cameras from a drop-down list. The site has dozens of current and popular models, everything from the Canon EOS 40D to the Sony SLT-A77.
That step shows you the two models side by side or overlayed so you can see how they compare, size-wise. The site also provides specifics about the physical differences between the two, like "Canon EOS 40D is 2% (2.9 mm) wider and 4% (3.8 mm) taller than Sony SLT-A77."
There's even an AA battery shown alongside the images to give you another perspective on size.
You can click an Info button to load user reviews from Amazon and a magnifying glass for a "life-size" (i.e. 1:1) view of the camera, one that's calculated based on the actual size of your monitor.
In short, this is one handy site for anyone researching a new digital camera--and concerned about size.
If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.