Cyberlink's $300 Director Suite 2's component applications are fast reaching the stage at which it might be more appropriate to compare them with pro-level applications such as Photoshop rather than the less expensive programs they actually compete against. Improvements in this new version are substantial, but largely underneath the hood with new 64-bit and Intel hardware acceleration support.
Director Suite 2 consists of: PowerDirector 12 Ultimate for video editing; ColorDirector 2, which interfaces directly with PowerDirector for handling color correction and enhancement; PhotoDirector 5 for cataloging and manipulating image files; and AudioDirector 4, for editing soundtracks and other music files. PowerDirector, ColorDirector, and PhotoDirector are all installed as 64-bit applications (a new feature) if you're running a 64-bit OS, but AudioDirector is 32-bit only. The suite supports 3D, 4K video, and surround sound throughout.
The editing in the four programs is round-trip if launched from PowerDirector. For instance, uf you select an audio track in PowerDirector's timeline, right-click and send it to AudioDirector, there will be a "back" button at the top of the AudioDirector window would not be present otherwise. Click it and you'll return to PowerDirector after making the choice between using the changes or ditching them.
Richard Baguley has been writing about, testing and breaking technology for the past 20 years. He has written for Wired, Macworld, USA Today, Amiga Format and many others More by Richard Baguley
Classic Shell isn't a me-too Windows 8 fixer. This free utility's first beta came out in November 2009, close on the heels of Windows 7. It's been helping frustrated Windows users regain lost features and add new ones ever since. New stable version 4.0 powers up Windows 7, 8, and 8.1.
A slew of programs grew up out of Microsoft’s decision to remove the Start menu from Windows 8. Classic 8 restored the Start menu, but it alsoprovided more features, including tweaks to the Windows Explorer that put a number of common features closer to hand. Now, version 4.0 brings a wider range of features, including multiple styles of start menu and a fully customizable look and feel, plus the ability to replace the Start button with one of your own design.
Jim Norris has been writing articles about technology for more than 20 of your Earth years. Whatever you do, don't call him Chuck. More by Jim Norris
You’ve honed your gaming skills to razor sharpness. You’ve used the six utilities that make a monster out of a milquetoast. Now it’s time to let the world see just how awesome you and your gaming rig have become. The following utilities let you record, play, and broadcast gameplay moments, and allow you to immortalize your triumphs on your favorite online gaming communities.
Beyond Fraps: Better gameplay-capture tools
Ever have a moment in a game that you wished everyone could see? Maybe it was the time the dragons in Skyrim started to fly backward. Or the afternoon you cleared out the airfield in DayZ without a suffering a single bite or bandit’s bullet. Windows itself handles static screenshots well, but if you’re looking to record footage, you have to crack open the toolbox.
The VideoLAN Player, a.k.a. VLC, rarely struts a flashy update. Its default look never changes, and the improvements are invariably under the hood. But it's free and powerful...and with its integrated codecs covering just about every type of media under the sun, it's the big dog in the multimedia playback kennel.
Version 2.1 "Rincewind" is out for Mac and Windows both, but I tested the Windows version only. VLC 2.1 is somewhat better with video than previous iterations, especially WMV and FLV files. I still saw the occasional undrawn frames (which could exist for up to 5 seconds in previous versions) when seeking, but they weren't as common as they had been, and they disappeared more quickly. Loading times seemed faster as well.
Contributing Editor Yardena (Denny) Arar is a San Francisco-based freelance writer, avid online shopper, media junkie, consummate foodie, and proud possessor of a private pilot's license. More by Yardena Arar
PDF creation from existing document and image files doesn’t get much easier than the two ways you can do it with Global Graphics’ GDoc Creator. You can drag-and-drop the file (or files) you wish to convert onto the tiny orange application window, or right-click the file, choose Print, and then select the GDoc Creator PDF printer driver that appears during installation. Either way, you’ll have a PDF in a matter of moments.
GDoc Creator can also generate Word documents from PDFs. But it’s important to understand what this $10 application doesn’t do. In fact, the name GDoc Creator is a bit of a misnomer, since you can neither create PDFs from scratch nor edit them. It’s a conversion utility, pure and simple.
Installation of the app was initially problematic on my Windows 7 notebook: It turns out my Trend Micro antivirus software shut it down when it attempted to contact GDoc Creator’s online activation site (a problem related to third-party certificates). I briefly disabled Trend Micro, quickly completed the installation, and then reactivated the antivirus software. Judging from how quickly Global Graphics came back with this solution, I suspect the problem may not be uncommon, so you might want to disable any AV software during installation.
Alex covers desktops, everything from fancy to practical. He's also an avid (addicted) gamer and loves following the industry. More by Alex Cocilova
There's nothing more frustrating than turning on your computer and watching programs slowly load up. You sit there, not sure exactly how long you're going to have to wait, as all those resource-hogging startup programs take their own sweet time. Well, wonder no more: BootRacer can take the mystery out of your PC start-ups.
After a free download and install, the program will be ready to time your next PC restart. (BootRacer remains free for personal use, but business users must pony up after trying the program.) Though you can't see it, it starts timing the moment the PC starts the boot-up process. Those who aren't quick at entering your password or logging in don't need to worry. BootRacer subtracts the time it takes for user input to make an accurate assessment at how quick your PC performs.
Expatriate Scotsman now living in Wurzburg, Germany, freelance writer, frustrated future bestselling author, obsessed bibliophile. Other interests include trying to understand The Architect in the Matrix movies, decrypting codes and ciphers, and trying to persuade my landlord and my wife to let me have a Highland Cow for a pet. More by Mark O'Neill
Despite the name, pNotes is not a notepad as such. Instead, it is the digital equivalent of yellow sticky notes, and as anyone who is addicted to using the real paper ones will tell you, these things are incredibly useful for simple lists and notes.