Ventrilo review: The essential comms tool for the PC gamer

Alex Cocilova Assistant Editor, PCWorld

Alex covers desktops, everything from fancy to practical. He's also an avid (addicted) gamer and loves following the industry.
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In the heat of battle, there's one tool that trumps all. No, it's not your customizable mouse or the fancy keyboard with 100 different macro keys. It's communication.

Ventrilo takes the guesswork out of what your friends are doing in-game by providing a lightweight voice over IP program to stay in constant contact.

Ventrilo screenshot
Ventrilo comes with a robust amount of options, but you may have to dig to find them.
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Review: f.lux makes your computer usable at night

Erez Zukerman , PCWorld Follow me on Google+

Endlessly tweaking his workflow for comfort and efficiency, Erez is a freelance writer on a mission to discover the simplest, coolest, and most effective software and websites to make tomorrow happen today.
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If you're reading this late in the day, pause to consider your eyes. Can you feel that familiar sting that comes from looking at a glaring LCD for too many hours? That's only the most noticeable symptom of what happens to our bodies when we spend hours staring into what's essentially a big, bright, lamp. F.lux is a simple and free app that helps fix this.

f.lux knows what time the sun sets wherever you are.

Turning down your monitor's brightness may help, but brightness isn't really the main issue: Color temperature is, and that can be trickier to adjust. Most computer screens emit bluish light that looks good in daytime, but becomes uncomfortable to look at in a dark room. It can also affect your sleep: Research suggests that reading on a tablet for two hours before bedtime can delay your sleep by about an hour.

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Review: WinZip 18 stays light on its feet with new Express add-ons

Erez Zukerman , PCWorld Follow me on Google+

Endlessly tweaking his workflow for comfort and efficiency, Erez is a freelance writer on a mission to discover the simplest, coolest, and most effective software and websites to make tomorrow happen today.
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Software grows. That's almost an axiom: As time goes by, more and more features appear... a little bell here, an extra whistle there, and you end up with a behemoth weighed down by its own bloat. WinZip is no stranger to this phenomenon, but its new version 18 fights the trend with new optional add-ons that let you get stuff done without even opening the main WinZip window.

The new WinZip Express add-on isn't flashy, but is clear and useful.

The most useful add-on is one you can get for free: WinZip Express for Explorer. Once installed, it shows up in Explorer's right-click menu. Select a bunch of files, and click Zip and Share (WinZip Express). A simple dialog instantly appears. Its plain looks modestly conceal its power: This one dialog effectively replaces the big WinZip window for most users.

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ConnectedText 6 review: Personal wiki adds long-requested features

Ian Harac , PCWorld

Offline personal wiki tool ConnectedText is ideal for college students, researchers, writers, and anyone else who needs the ability to mix freeform text with keywords and structure, or to perform queries and aggregations based on arbitrary criteria. The new version 6 adds long-needed enhancements to content aggregation, display, and searching.

ConnectedText 6 screenshot
At long last, you can open multiple views of the same project in ConnectedText.

With ConnectedText ($40. 30-day free trial), you create projects composed of topics. Editing a topic requires toggling into edit mode and using a simple markup language that rapidly becomes second nature. Flipping out of edit mode renders the topic according to a style sheet. Those who know CSS can edit the style sheet or enhance it in many ways, but I've found the default to be perfectly fine.

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Prezi Desktop review: Animate your presentations, even when you're away from the cloud

Clare Brandt , PCWorld

Clare Brandt writes about fonts and other obsessions. Her personal blog, which sometimes mentions technology, but mostly not, can be found at clarerobinsonbrandt.wordpresss.com.
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Once you notice your colleagues are catching up on their sleep during your PowerPoint presentations, you know you need Prezi Desktop. Using this software, you can wake up your presentations using animation that doesn't suck. Forget transitions and effects like dissolve and fly-in, Prezi Desktop focuses in on your important points within your slides, like actually visually focuses in.

Prezi Desktop screenshot
Many of Prezi Desktop's 50+ templates include 3D animation. In this one, you start out in a forest and then move through the trees.

Prezi Desktop is similar to the online Prezi, but as you might guess from the name, it doesn't require an Internet connection after the initial registraion. This means that any storage limits are on your end, not on Prezi's cloud. It's also awfully handy to work offline when you're incorporating last-minute changes on a flight or at the slightly-too-rustic site for the company retreat.

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Pixsta review: This is the Instagram desktop client you've been waiting for

Erez Zukerman , PCWorld Follow me on Google+

Endlessly tweaking his workflow for comfort and efficiency, Erez is a freelance writer on a mission to discover the simplest, coolest, and most effective software and websites to make tomorrow happen today.
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Instagram is so inherently a mobile-first experience, I didn't think it would be made any better by a desktop client. And yet Pixsta, a PC desktop Instagram client for the Pokki platform, feels like a Daft Punk song: Better, faster, stronger.

It's Instagram, for Windows.

Formerly known as Instagrille, the newly-christened Pixsta cheerfully eschews traditional Windows chrome, opting for a gray look with drop-shadows that would look right at home on a Mac. Despite not feeling like a native Windows app at all, it works: The lack of window borders puts the images front and center. You can resize the window to fit more images in, and toggle between a linear and a tile-based layout.

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PCs fail. Be ready with the best boot-drive programs

Jon L. Jacobi Freelance Writer, PCWorld

When your PC stops booting, a boot drive is the electronic version of a defibrillator. If you can boot your PC, you can detect bad memory, chase bad sectors, change passwords, and recover data ... all the things you need to get the machine back to normal. I’ll show you how to make the boot drives you need.

The boot software you already have

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