Round up: The best password manager 2016

Round up: The best password manager 2016

Download the best password manager

Keep your passwords secure

Passwords are a pain. It's easy to mock the people using '12345678' for everything, but creating and recalling strong passwords that are unique to each website is a huge PITA. Thank goodness, then, for password managers: not only do they do the remembering so you don't have to, but they can usually do all the typing too.

The apps we've selected here are all master password managers, and many of them have useful extra features too. Have we missed your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.


Download LastPass free

1. LastPass

Download LastPass freeThere are two versions of LastPass - free and premium. Both can store an unlimited number of account logins in a secure vault protected by a master password, will complete online forms for you automatically, and can employ multi-factor authentication.

The premium edition also syncs across multiple devices, stores passwords for desktop programs, and lets you share secured folders with other people. with customizable permissions.

Download LastPass freeOne of LastPass's best features is its ability to generate strong, unguessable passwords for all your accounts, which it then stores for you. There's no need to remember long, awkward streams of characters, or re-use the same password for multiple accounts. It's a class act.


Download Dashlane free

2. Dashlane

Dashlane is LastPass's most serious rival, and like LastPass it's absolutely superb with strong password security, exceptional ease of use and ability to store notes for future reference.

Download Dashlane freeIt works on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS and with Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, and like LastPass there's a premium version that adds unlimited syncing and sharing. That costs US$39.99 (about £30.24, AU$52.86) per year, but the free version provides all the essentials: you get the core password manager, autofill and digital wallet features, all of which work flawlessly. Don't settle for LastPass without trying Dashlane first, and vice versa.


Download True Key free

3. True Key

True Key, by Intel Security, is the successor to the hugely popular PasswordBox. In addition to using a master password to protect all your other passwords, True Key can also recognize your fingerprint or your face for two-factor authentication. It's free for up to 15 passwords, and after that the premium version is £19.99, (US$19.99, AU$19.95) per year.

Download True Key freeThe app is available for PC, Mac, iOS and Android, although fingerprint recognition isn't available on Mac or Android yet.


Roboform's free desktop version is strictly limited, but you can sync across as many mobile devices as you like

4. RoboForm

Roboform claims to be the world's best password manager, though its free version only lets you store up to 10 logins and lacks the breadth of features offered by some of its rivals. If you need to store more passwords, a premium account costs US$9.95 (about £7.55, AU£13.20) for the first year, though the mobile apps are free.

It's available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, and is a good option for anybody who wants a simple and secure way to sync passwords between desktop, laptop and mobile devices.

Download RoboForm freeRoboForm doesn't have quite the same features lists as Dashlane or LastPass, but it's a very good app nonetheless and the free mobile apps are excellent.


Download Keeper Desktop free

5. Keeper Desktop

Keeper is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux, and its autofill extension works in all the major browsers. The free version is limited to a single device with local password storage, and the £20.99 (US$29.99, about AU$39.62) Individual plan offers unlimited password storage and syncing, fingerprint authentication and a web app. There's also a Family plan at £44.99 (US$59.99, about AU$79.17) per year for five users.

Download Keeper freeIn addition to passwords there's also a digital vault for secure storage of photos, videos and documents, all of which are backed up securely if you're a subscriber. If you own a smartwatch, you can use it for two-factor authentication, which is a nice touch.


Download Password Depot trial free

6. Password Depot

Password Depot offers a free 30-day trial for 20 devices, after which you'll be asked to hand over US$29.95 (about £22.62, AU$39.52) for the full version. The app enables you to generate and store passwords and move them to a USB device or phone as well as on your PC, and it can store credit card numbers securely.

Download Password Depot freeThe PC app is complemented by mobile apps for iOS and Android, and there's an option to attach files to password entries that you can use to encrypt and securely store important documents. It also enables you to import passwords from other apps, which is handy if you've fallen out of love with an existing password manager.


Download Keepass free

7. KeePass Password Safe

It isn't the prettiest password manager around, but KeePass Password Safe is both free and open source with strong security, multiple user support and a whole bunch of plugins to expand the app further. The app is small enough to run from USB without installing on a PC, it can input from and output to a wide range of file formats and there are stacks of customization options to play with.

Download KeePass freeThe fact that KeePass is open source means anybody can inspect the code for potential weaknesses, which means that any security issues can be identified and fixed quickly. It's a great little app, if a bit intimidating for absolute beginners.


Download 1Password free

8. 1Password

1Password is free for 30 days and then US$2.99 (about £2.26, AU$3.95) per month for an individual or US$4.99 (about £3.77, AU$6.59) for a family of up to five people. The app is available for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, includes 1GB of secure file storage and keeps track of your item history for a full year, enabling you to recover deleted items or passwords. The family version adds document and password sharing, permission control for other family members and account recovery for family members who forget their logins.

Download 1Password freeIt's a nice app, especially on the Mac and on iOS, where it can use TouchID for authentication.


Download Sticky Password free

9. Sticky Password

Sticky Password comes from the team behind AVG Antivirus, so you can be confident that security is its top priority. There are two versions of Sticky Password: free and premium. The latter adds cloud syncing and backup and costs £29.99 (about US$39.64, AU$52.44) a year.

Download Sticky Password freeThe app works on PC, Mac, Android and iOS, supports fingerprint authentication on mobile, is available as a portable USB version and offers lots of synchronisation options including Wi-Fi syncing with local devices. It doesn't support the Edge browser just yet but it will once the Anniversary Update introduces extension support.


iCloud Keychain

10. iCloud Keychain

If you're on a Mac, don't forget the password manager you already have. Apple's own iCloud Keychain may not have all the advanced features of 1Password or LastPass, but it does a perfectly decent job of generating and managing strong passwords as well as securely storing and using your credit card details, logins for various servers, wireless network accounts and anything else involving logins.

It's an Apple-only affair - iOS, OS X and macOS are the only supported platforms - but if you don't need PC or Android access then that's not a problem.

Continue reading »

Top 10 best personal finance software and services

Top 10 best personal finance software and services


Money management

Gone are the days of waiting for a printed bank account statement to drop through your letterbox, or making a visit to your local branch to move some money between accounts. We now have more control of our money than ever before. But that convenience could, for some, mean disorganisation, reckless spending, borrowing and debt.

Applying poor money management techniques to your personal accounts is one thing, but doing the same to your small business funds could be disastrous. And while we can't help you to be sensible – that's on you – we have selected ten tools which can make a difference to the way you think and act with your capital.

Take your pick of these packages and use them to stay on top of your money. A good overview will help you control your spending, grow your balance, and ensure you've always got enough in reserve to keep the taxman happy.

If you're looking to keep your business books with a bit more detail, check out our guide to the best accounts and invoicing software of 2016.

Quicken Premier

Quicken Premier

Price: $104.99 (£80)

Available for Windows, OS X

Probably the biggest name in personal accounting, Quicken's desktop tool is well-aged, feature-packed and – whisper it – starting to feel a bit out of date. So much so that parent company Intuit recently sold the rights to the software to a private equity firm in order to concentrate on its more modern properties like and TurboTax.

The future, then, is not entirely clear. Will Quicken's security systems, which partially rely on logging in with an Intuit account, need to be changed? Will it still be upgraded on a yearly schedule, and will Quicken's new owner still provide three years of technical support and bank data compatibility with each release? We just don't know.

It's a shame we're now having to treat Quicken with caution. The Premier edition is perfect for managing personal finances, business accounts and investments in one place provided you're in the US – it's not so hot for UK users, being geared more towards American finance options.

It neatly links transactions between your accounts – so transferring from savings into a current account is one entry, with a 'from' and a 'to' rather than a pair – and provides various budgeting and prediction tools to help you stay on track.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital

Price: Free, fee-based

Available for iOS, Android, online

Personal Capital's primary function is to track your investments, assets and savings, rather than specifically looking after your current accounts. Are your assets working for you? Are you on course for a comfortable retirement? What can you do to be better off? Plug everything in and you'll be able to see the big picture of your finances.

Personal Capital offers specific advice and statistics based on your goals and your current standing, but access to human financial advisors is where the company makes its money. While anyone is welcome to use its website, it will only accept you as a customer if you have at least $25,000 (£18,900) in liquid assets, and there's an annual fee (a percentage between 0.89% and 0.49%) to pay if you want your assets managed – this is lower than most financial advice services.

UK customers will probably want to steer clear – Personal Capital is geared towards US investments like IRAs and the 401k – but for those State-side this could be the perfect way to grow your wealth.



Price: Free/$3.99/$4.99 (£3/£3.80) per month

Available online

An online service that's not slathered in effects and colours, Buxfer does a good job of presenting your finances in a clean, professional manner. It cutely brags about the fact that it's currently helping its users manage over $6 billion (around £4.5 billion, AU$8 billion) in funds, so it's got a solid user base behind it.

You don't have to give Buxfer your exact banking details if you're uncomfortable doing so – you can opt for offline manual syncing with your bank account instead – but if you do trust it, there's a layer of high-level encryption to protect your data and the company is regularly audited.

We like its budgeting tools best of all – the visual reporting is very strong, and the fact that it doesn't force you into predefined categories and instead allows you to tag expenditures however you see fit means Buxfer should fit nicely into most people's banking lives. The free version gets you five budgets and accounts, while the Plus version ($3.99 per month – that's around £3) makes that unlimited, and the Pro version ($4.99 per month – around £3.80) deals with online payments and more besides.

You Need A Budget

You Need a Budget

Price: $50 (£38) per year

Available for Android, iOS, online

Just in case you need to be told explicitly what to do, along comes You Need A Budget (YNAB) because, hey, if you don't want to spend every single penny you have and more, you absolutely do need one. And perhaps you have more money than you thought?

YNAB's primary mission, as you might expect, is to help you curb overspending and avoid living from paycheck to paycheck. Stick to the program, temper your spending appropriately, and eventually YNAB will see you spending last month's money rather than that which you've just earned.

It's quick to install, supports the majority of transaction information downloadable from banks, and appropriately configures itself for personal or small business use by changing its monetary categories depending on your needs.

If you get off track, YNAB – which is reasonably forgiving and understanding for a bit of software – will tell you what you need to do to get back to where you need to be. You'll have to make sacrifices, but if it's guidance you need, this sets itself apart from the likes of Quicken.



Price: Free/$9.95 (£7.50) per month

Available for Android, iOS

There are various philosophies of budgeting. One time-honoured technique is the envelope budgeting system: splitting your funds, as they arrive, into various envelopes marked for specific purposes, never dipping into an envelope to spend cash on anything other than its designated use. You don't need savings to start budgeting this way, just willpower and, er, envelopes.

Without a whole host of bank accounts you're not going to be able to apply this technique effectively to digital money, but using Mvelopes is a good way to at least put a representation of your sectioned-off income in front of you. Designate an envelope for working capital or savings and you can grow your personal wealth or business funds surprisingly quickly. Anything you don't spend in an envelope stays there, giving you more to play with in your next pay cycle.

Mvelopes' free version will probably be adequate for most people, offering management of up to four accounts and 25 spending envelopes, but unlimited accounts and envelopes are available for a $9.95 (£7.50) monthly fee. It's intuitive to use, and there are mobile apps for Android and iOS, essential for taking a peek inside your envelopes when it comes time to pull any money out of them…



Price: £35 ($46)

Available for Windows

UK readers will be pleased to know that unlike most accounting software, this is produced by a British company – not that other apps are terrified of good old Pound Sterling or anything, but it's slightly easier to put your financial trust in home-grown software, and its support for data from UK banks is very strong.

Banktree is more than happy to support worldwide currencies, and in fact does a solid job if you're working simultaneously with more than one, offering balances in multiple currencies rather than rounding them off into a single total. It's also good for keeping track of everything, allowing you to scan receipts with its mobile app and import them later on.

It's not the prettiest software around, and it's slightly more awkward to use than many of its more refined cousins, although Banktree does produce very neat reports which you can break down by time, or by payee. Experiment with the free trial before you choose to invest in this one.

Money Dashboard

Money Dashboard

Price: Free

Available for iOS, Android

This iOS/Android app doesn't try to reinvent the banking world or offer anything truly ground-breaking, but it is perhaps one of the most useful money management tools out there. Hook up every one of your UK bank and credit card accounts and you'll be able to see each of your balances in a single place with a single login. That in itself is enough for us to recommend it.

But there's more – Money Dashboard will track your spending, offering you an overall pie chart depicting your spending on loans, consumables, transport and the like. There's an at-a-glance overall balance, showing exactly how much money you have available across all of your accounts, and you can compare this to the previous month's figure to show how well you've been managing your funds. That's a great motivator.

It's super-safe, too: Money Dashboard locks down your login with an equivalent level of security to that of your bank, and it's completely read-only – your money isn't going anywhere.



Price: $49.99 (£38)

Available for OS X, Windows, Linux

Made primarily for OS X (but also out on Windows and Linux), MoneyDance is a desktop money management package with a very neat single-window interface. Load it up and you'll get an instant view of your finances, upcoming bills, recent expenses and more. Click an item in the left hand sidebar and the main content changes to reflect it.

Its reporting features are quite strong if not spectacular to look at, and one of MoneyDance's most useful sections is its account register. If you're old-school and once managed a cheque book, this operates on a very similar principle. There's also an iOS app for logging transactions on the go, which later syncs with the software on your desktop.

Unfortunately for UK users, MoneyDance doesn't support the connection protocols used by UK banks, so you'll need to download your transaction history manually to keep on top of it and revert to your bank's own app to move money around. US users, however, are well covered.



Price: Free

Available for iOS, Android

The stuffiness of money management can negatively affect some. We've certainly been in the position of not wanting to even look at a spreadsheet full of depressing numbers. Coinkeeper boils it all down to a series of circular pots – drag coins from your current account, and you can allocate them to all of your spending needs. We wouldn't exactly say it makes money management fun, but it's cute at least.

Coinkeeper is free to download and try, although you'll need to shell out for the $1.99 (£1.50) per month subscription option to really make the most of it and budget effectively. It's brilliant for keeping track of your expenses, and don't be fooled by its frivolous looks – you'll be able to see at a glance where your money is going, and export your data in a CSV file to use in virtually any other finance app or spreadsheet.



Price: Free

Available online

Provided by This Is Money – an offshoot of the Daily Mail – PowerPortfolio is both a good way to keep track of the stocks and shares you own, and a great way to see if you'd make it as a market investor without risking any capital. Updated every few minutes, it contains info on all London-listed shares and UK-based funds, and even lets you track money put into alternative assets like wine and art.

When your individual investments are set up, be they real or virtual, you'll be able to see what top brokers are saying about the stocks you've picked, get an overview of exactly where your money is allocated, and track the performance of your stocks over time. Basically everything you'd need for a play portfolio, but if you're funnelling a lot of cash into shares you might be better off employing the services of a broker or investment manager and using this tool only for at-a-glance monitoring.

Continue reading »

25 cool things to try in the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition update

25 cool things to try in the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition update


First slide

Almost one year to the day that Windows 10 first landed on July 29, 2015, its biggest update – Anniversary Edition – is now landing on PCs everywhere.

It brings with it a host of new features relating to Cortana, using a Bluetooth pen, Microsoft's Edge browser and Windows Hello. Not everything is quite in place just yet – so don't expect to be buying Xbox Play Anywhere games using your device's fingerprint scanner just yet – but there's still plenty of cool tricks that you can try.

If you're rocking Windows 10, at some point you'll be prompted to download the update - but don't worry, as it might not happen straight away. If you find yourself in that boat, here's how to download and install the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

If you've already got it, click (or tap) on ahead to check out 25 cool things that you can try today.

1. Search within documents

Search within Cortana

Cortana can now forage through your documents like an urban fox checking out the contents of your bins. Previously it was only possible to have the personal assistant search the titles of files stored in OneDrive, but it can now sniff out information stored within them. So long as they're stored in Microsoft's cloud, you can say, "Cortana, search my documents for [search phrase]". If Cortana makes a match, it will then retrieve the document and show it in the search window.

2. Set detailed reminders


With Cortana, Microsoft is starting to fulfill its original vision of a truly useful personal assistant. Windows 10's Anniversary Update now lets you log more granular, timely reminders by saying things like, "Remind me to pick up the shopping on Wednesday at 3pm." Be warned: this invalidates any excuse you ever have for missing a family occasion ever again. Think twice if it's worth it.

3. Set a reminder from the lock screen

Set a reminder

You might find that you occasionally lock your computer before remembering something that you need to do. Instead of making you log back in, detailed reminders can now be set on the lock screen by saying the usual, "Hey Cortana" line.

4. Add photos to reminders

Reminder photos

Reminders are bland yet functional things, so it doesn't hurt to spice them up by adding a visual aid. There's now an option at the bottom of the window when setting a reminder to take a picture with your device's camera or upload one. This could come in especially handy when creating shopping lists - you don't want to buy somebody the wrong birthday present now, do you?

5. Activate dark mode

Dark Mode

Microsoft has seen the light by bringing Dark Mode to Windows 10, and you'll love it if you're the sort that stays up until 3am huddled in front of your screen in the dead of night. Dark Mode changes UWP apps like Mail, Calendar and Store to a primarily black color scheme, which is easier on the eyes and can even help save battery life, according to Microsoft. It also looks great on high-resolution displays.

6. Automatically delete your browsing history

Delete browsing history

Yeah - you there reading this - we know why you might be interested in this one. Microsoft doesn't want anybody to find out about your secret love of Tom Jones, so it's baked in an option to delete your browsing history every time you close down Edge. Because it's not unusual to want a lil' privacy.

7. Check out Xbox Play Anywhere

Xbox Play Anywhere

Xbox Play Anywhere games haven't quite landed just yet, but you can have a root around the redesigned Microsoft Store to get a feel for what it will look like when they do. Each title now lists compatible devices that games will run on, and you can expect 'Play Anywhere' logos to start cropping up soon.

8. Make the Start Menu bigger

Start Menu

The Start Menu was never big enough on Windows 10 – until now. By changing an option within the Start pane on the taskbar settings screen it's now possible to maximize the menu to squeeze in more live tiles. Additionally, Microsoft has made it so that Live Tiles now take you directly to the content that's being displayed in the tiles - rather than the app's 'home' screen. So if you see a new story's headline pop up in a Live Tile, giving it a click (or tap) will take you to that specific story.

9. Quickly access recent doodling apps

Instant Ink

Microsoft has introduced Windows Ink in the new update, a side-loaded menu that makes doodling on your display quicker and easier. Simply give your Surface Pen's top button a click to pull it up. There you'll find the five most recent pen-compatible apps that you've previously used.

10. Draw on screenshots


One of Windows Ink's new features is Screen sketch, which lets you doodle on a screenshot. Simply give your Surface Pen's button a click and select 'Screen sketch' to take a snapshot of your screen's contents. You're given a handful of different pens to play with – from pencils to those chunky highlighters that never used to fit in your pencil case.

11. Hide the taskbar

Hide the taskbar

Windows 10's Tablet Mode has never felt very tablet-ey with that ugly taskbar hovering around at the bottom of the screen. You can now right-click it and select 'Automatically hide the taskbar' to make it shuffle out of sight to provide a more distraction-free tablet experience.

12. Check out Edge extensions

Edge Extensions

Edge has finally caught up with just about every other browser out there by introducing extensions. There's the usual suspects – including AdBlock and Save to Pocket – in addition other useful entries such as OneNote Web Clipper and the Reddit Enhancement Suite.

13. Schedule Windows Defender

MS Defender

Even if you're running a separate antivirus program, it's still a good idea to have Windows Defender lurking in the background like a not-very-reassuring last line of defense. Still, Windows 10's Anniversary Update now lets you schedule when Defender scans your system, so at least you can set it to work when you're not there.

14. Draw straight lines

Draw straght

We just couldn't rule out including this one. (Sorry.) It's a well known fact that wonky lines anger artists more anything, which is probably why Microsoft has included a ruler feature in its Sketchpad app. Your sketches of quaint backwater villages are going to look more life-like than ever.

15. Reorder Action Tiles

Reorder live tiles

Re-ordering Quick Action tiles was a little clunky post-Anniversary Update. Now it's as simple as dragging, dropping adding and deleting up to 14 Quick Action live tiles that show up when you open the Action Center.

16. Pin a zillion tabs

Tab things

Shh – whisper it – Edge is actually looking quite funky in the latest Windows 10 update. One of its simpler yet neat features is to pin website tabs to save space. Sure, Chrome and other browsers can do it too, but in Edge it just looks squarer and strangely pretty. Must be our OCD.

17. Consolidate your Favorites


Another new space-saving feature in Edge is to only show icons in your Favorites bar. Combined with pinned websites, it's a feature that could come in super useful on smaller displays.

18. Play music through Cortana

Play Music

Cortana now lets you play music on the lock screen before you've signed in by speaking commands, which is undoubtedly cool. However, you'll need a Groove Music subscription for it to work, which is not. We tried asking Cortana to play something through Spotify; in short, we might as well have been speaking French.

19. Get Sticky

Get sticky

Stickies are great in Windows 10's Anniversary Edition. They look just like the real deal, allowing you to position, resize and make them different colors. They've actually quite smart too, capable of automatically turning scribbles into reminders or links. They even retrieve information about flights if you write down the flight number.

20. Pin app windows to desktops

Task view

Task View felt half-baked until this new feature came along. Like on macOS, you can now 'pin' app windows to various virtual desktops in Task View, which makes your desktop feel much bigger than it actually is. Simply right-click the window in question and select 'Move to [desktop name]',

21. Check your notifications


We've lost count of how many times we've gone to click the Action Center button in the taskbar and missed it, only to open Norton or something else by accident. Windows 10's Anniversary Update has relocated the Action Center button to the bottom right-hand corner, just to the right of the clock. Handily, it now has a bubble with the number of notifications that are waiting for you in there.

22. Annoy people with emojis


Yes – Microsoft has included a bunch of new emojis in the latest update. Available in 25 different languages, they include 'Ninja-cat' and Liverpool FC soccer star Daniel Sturridge. If that's not cool then we don't know what is.

23. Easily change your Pen settings

Pen settings

Windows 10 previously used a dedicated app to let you tweak your Bluetooth pen settings, and it can now all be done from within the OS itself. Navigate to Settings > Pen & Winks Ink to find them.

24. Check your calendar in a click


So long as you've set up one or more accounts in the Calendar app, it's now possible to get a glimpse of what's coming up by clicking on the clock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

25. Draw straight shapes

Straight lines

As we mentioned before, Windows 10 now lets you draw with a ruler in sketchpad. Microsoft has built more coolness of the straight lines variety by converting your wonky scribbles in Office apps. OneNote, for example, will convert your bad attempts at circles and squares into perfectly-drawn shapes. After several attempts, however, it still couldn't work out what an octagon was. Why the hate for eight sides, Microsoft?

Continue reading »

Windows 10 Week: Why does Windows 10 cost money when OS X is free?

Windows 10 Week: Why does Windows 10 cost money when OS X is free?

Windows 10 is no longer free. As of July 29, a year to the day since Microsoft's release of its pivotal operating system (OS), you can't upgrade your existing laptop, desktop or tablet to the platform for zero dollars, pounds, deutschmarks – you name it.

From here on out, if you want to enjoy the fresh new features and updated protocols for various worthy pursuits, namely gaming, social media, search and cloud computing, you'll have to pay up in the way of $119 (or £99, AU$179).

Now, you might be wondering, "Hey, Apple doesn't charge for its software, so why should Microsoft?" So, why don't we make that crystal clear?

Microsoft was a software company first

Simply put, Windows has been the central pillar of Microsoft's business since its inception. It's only been in the past four years that the 41-year-old company has significantly (and successfully) invested in its own computing – not gaming – hardware to demonstrate the OS's capabilities and to offer the most capable versions of the devices running its software.

Windows 10

Frankly, the expectation that an OS should be free is a combination of misinformation and misconception revolving around the development of Apple's products. Just because they exist within the same general market doesn't mean Microsoft and its arch nemesis should be stacked up apples to apples by the public in how their pricing is perceived.

For the first 35 years of its run, Microsoft merely dabbled with hardware, largely making money selling its Windows software to various PC hardware makers. The cost of which was then and continues to be subsidized into the pricing of devices (and later further by third party software companies).

But, it has also sold boxed versions of the operating systems straight to consumers to install on their self-built systems or upgrade existing machines.

Apple, on the other hand, has done everything, from the hardware to the software, on its own since (well, a bit after, if you ask Bill Gates) the start in 1976. When you buy a MacBook or an iPhone, it comes with software that the hardware maker also made for it. Considering Apple's premium pricing for all of its products, that cost of making the OS was in part subsidized that way.

Windows 10

Arguably, Microsoft works in the same way with all of its Surface devices. Beyond its self-made hardware, you could pick up a brand new laptop, desktop or tablet with the Windows 10 installed, which is kind of like getting the interface free, but not really because (again) it's subsidized into the price of the device.

Ultimately, that $120 price tag will only affect users who didn't upgrade in time or are building a new PC. Otherwise, like the future iterations of MacOS and the last few versions of OS X, Windows 10 will get free updates for the next decade.

Catching onto content and continuity

Aside from producing a handful of devices, Microsoft's main focus remains squarely in software, including its Office 365 productivity suite and a few mobile apps – and not to mention its cloud services business Azure.

Windows 10

Conversely, Apple caught on quickly to other ends of the software industry, namely digital media and the mobile app economy – arguably having a hand in their creation. The company's steady stream of revenue from these channels allowed it to adjust the pricing of its other software offerings, the ones that are sort of the keys into the company's castle of digital transactions.

As in, the operating system and its most important apps. They're now free on all Apple products, essentially. Free admission is an effective means of getting people into your stores. Because of this, tech customers have come to expect "free" updates for their expensive devices.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has only begun achieving a similar hardware-to-software ecosystem in a meaningful way within the past five years. It's turning the corner, but by nature Microsoft will never truly adopt a similar model whole cloth. It simply can't abandon what it's built.

And Microsoft will always be a software company first

Now, do you see why this free year of the Windows 10 upgrade couldn't go on for much longer? This release will vastly change the firm's approach to the operating system moving forward. And that's not only in that this will be – for all intents and purposes – the final version of Windows, but that eventually Windows 10 will reach ubiquity in its communities, and direct sales will dry up.

Windows 10

In the meantime, Microsoft needs to continue charging for the OS because it has little other means of subsidizing the cost of its creation. Thousands of people work hard on the creation, maintenance and development of an OS, work that has to be paid somehow. (If it works out, those costs will largely be covered in digital media and app sales before long.)

And, judging from the changes brought to bear in the Anniversary Update, they're working to make sure that every box earns your $120. Even if you somehow missed the free upgrade, you'll see the value in the new way of using Windows minutes after installing. (Just check out the features we've published this Windows 10 Week for more about that.)

Windows costs money now, frankly, because it has to. What I like to call "The Apple Effect" has caused consumers to always expect free major updates from their devices. Now, after you pay the $120 price of admission, you'll get the same treatment there on out from Microsoft.

But, since Microsoft doesn't have the same structure as its rivals, it has to work perhaps a little harder to earn your appreciation for its software. And maybe, just maybe that makes the difference between its OS and its rivals' products.

This article is part of TechRadar's Windows 10 week. Microsoft's latest operating system turned from a free to a paid upgrade on July 29, and we're looking to answer the question of whether it's good for you.

Continue reading »

Editor’s pick: Download Gadwin PrintScreen to make PC troubleshooting easy

Editor's pick: Download Gadwin PrintScreen to make PC troubleshooting easy

Troubleshooting with Gadwin PrintScreen

Solve PC problems with PrintScreen

Screen capture software makes it easy to guide less tech-savvy family members through the steps necessary to resolve problems with their PCs.

Top download - Gadwin PrintScreenClear images mean you can explain solutions via email or instant messaging, which is much more simple than using software like TeamViewer to take over their PC remotely or - worse still - struggle to help them over the phone ("Do you see the Settings button? It's the one shaped like a little gear. Ah, no, you've just closed the window...")

Windows has its own built-in Snipping Tool for taking and annotating screengrabs, but its options are very limited and you'll spend unnecessary time saving grabs manually, formatting them and moving them to the right folder. Gadwin PrintScreen is a superb free program that captures exactly what you want, converts it to the right format and sends it wherever you need it.

Gadwin PrintScreen capture options

When you install Gadwin you'll see a small widget on your desktop containing capture tools and settings. This won't appear in any screen captures (unless you want it to), and can be hidden completely once you've set up some custom keyboard shortcuts.

The default setting captures the entire screen, but you can also capture only the active window or an area selected using your mouse. It's worth noting that the active window tool isn't perfect and occasionally grabs the wrong one, so you might prefer to stick with manual selection until Gadwin irons out this issue in a future update. The option to capture the cursor is very helpful for walking someone through a problem, so we recommend keeping it selected.

PrintScreen lets you preview screengrabs and make any necessary edits, or save them silently in the background if you prefer. By default it names each grab using the current date and time, but it's a good idea to choose the manual option and give each one a more descriptive title instead. The software will still keep a record of them in chronological order for future reference – very handy if you need to explain something step-by-step.

Gadwin PrintScreen history

The settings button lets you choose how PrintScreen behaves before and after capturing a grab. When you're troubleshooting with a family member, the most useful of these is the ability to attach screen captures directly to an email. Simply press Print Screen, type some text and press 'Send'.

Alternatively, you can choose to save new captures in a particular folder. If you make this a folder within your Dropbox account then give your family member permission to see them, they'll have instant access to all your screengrabs as you take them.

Gadwin PrintScreen with Dropbox

If you're writing a tutorial to publish online rather than helping your dad install his new flight simulator, you might like to apply a watermark to each screengrab as you take it. PrintScreen can also resize each grab to your exact specifications so it's ready to be uploaded via FTP.

Download Gadwin PrintScreen freeThanks to PrintScreen, you'll never struggle to troubleshoot a PC over the phone again. "Now right-click the icon and choose Properties - no, you've just deleted it. Okay, let's start that bit again..."

Continue reading »

The flops, near misses and glorious failures in the race to be the best smartphone OS

The flops, near misses and glorious failures in the race to be the best smartphone OS

MeeGo, Sailfish and BlackBerry 10

It's 2016, and the mobile world is two things: iOS and Android. The former, run by the world's most profitable company, began the smartphone boom. The latter, owned and administered by the world's foremost data-mining firm, expanded that boom to the farthest reaches of the globe.

Today, their dominance is so complete that it is almost impossible to imagine any alternate situation, for Android and iOS success is an inevitability, guaranteed and impossible to escape.

And yet this was not always the case. Since 2008 many firms, keen to get in on the lucrative smartphone game, have entered the fray with home-grown mobile operating systems. Some were beautiful, some were game-changing, some were just awful.

Sailfish OS, MeeGo, Firefox OS, BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone 7/8, WebOS: the past is littered with the detritus of many once great titans and smaller upstarts. Read on for a glimpse of what has passed, and what could have been.



Though the name 'Nokia' has not always been synonymous with smartphones, for many the first phone they owned came from the Finnish firm.

Indeed, in 2010 Nokia was the biggest phone manufacturer in the world, commanding over 40% of the total market at the time, a share that dwarfs that of any handset maker in the present. However, not all was well in Espoo HQ, despite the then healthy sales figures.

As with many companies that experience staggering success, Nokia got fat and complacent. Its internal structure grew bloated and incapable of reacting to quick changes. The firm subsequently failed to pay enough attention to the rise of Android and iOS, at least until 2011. It was then that the Nokia N9 was released, the first and only device to come bearing the MeeGo operating system.

Forged from code created at both Intel and Nokia, MeeGo was something slightly revolutionary. Boasting slim system requirements, an intuitive touch interface, message hubs and multitasking, the emphasis was on creating a flow through the user experience. The hope was it was something the opposition at the time simply couldn't match.

Ultimately, this system was a victim of the internal politics that would slowly claim Nokia's soul. Unconvinced by the potential of the system, and perhaps swayed by generous subsidies from Microsoft, CEO Stephen Elop published the famous 'burning platform' memo, burying MeeGo and the N9 in favor of Windows Phone.

Today the project exists only as a reminder of what could have been, and the tragic fall of Nokia into relative nothingness.

Sailfish OS


Created by a group of former Nokia engineers (with seed funding from the firm itself), Sailfish OS is heavily based on the code used in MeeGo. The only real difference is in the user interface, which had to be altered from the original 'Harmattan' version as Nokia retained the rights to this.

Instead, the user interacts with Sailfish through an innovative series of gestures, with minimal button inputs, again with the emphasis on flow. Apps are kept open, running in the background and can be pinned, as with MeeGo.

Jolla is the company behind the operating system (the name meaning "raft" in Finnish, and intended as a riposte to the 'burning platform' memo), and the life span of its products has been characterized by grand ambitions and neutered realities.

Offering the OS as a community project, Jolla has developed a small but devoted cult following around its product, but devices bearing the operating system, other than its own in-house effort, have been scant, even occasionally turning into vaporware.

2016 marked the birth of the first OEM device to come bearing Sailfish OS, the Intex Aqua Fish, intended solely for the Indian market. Jolla itself has since ceased production of its sole handset (the Jolla Phone), and the arrival of its first tablet has been somewhat botched as a result of a mismanaged Indiegogo campaign.

Now focusing solely on the production and refinement of its software offerings, things are still looking dicey for the firm, which recently had to accept a bailout following a difficult financial period.

BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry OS

Another operating system spawned from a former giant, as the name might infer, this was the brainchild of BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion [RIM]).

In the period spanning 2002 - 2010, RIM enjoyed something of a meteoric rise, especially among businesses. Arguably the first company to get mobile email 'right', its handsets enjoyed enormous success, with particular fondness being reserved for their ever-improving physical keyboards.

Yet, as with Nokia, BlackBerry failed to pay significant attention to the rise and rise of Android and iOS. Over time, as its consumer base began to crumble quickly, it doubled down on business, and believed that it had something of an ace in BlackBerry 10.

Sharing much of the same design DNA as MeeGo and Sailfish, BlackBerry 10 is built around gestures, allowing users to swipe right and left, as well as from all four corners of the screen, while background apps are 'pinned' to the home screen, running slightly like widgets in the background.

Innovative as it was, by the time the software was released Blackberry had missed the boat completely. Launching to little fanfare, adoption was muted, leading to a series of internal power struggles and strife at BlackBerry, which saw enormous job losses and a complete change in priorities.

With the firm now shifting its attentions to the greener pastures of Android, testing the water with the likes of 2015's excellent BlackBerry Priv and the 2016 BlackBerry DTEK50, the future of Blackberry 10 is one of interminable decline. It still remains committed to the platform, but the likelihood of new BB 10 hardware remains bleak.

Firefox OS, Palm OS/WebOS and Windows Phone

Firefox OS

Firefox OS

Mozilla is well-known for its popular web browser, Firefox, and yet the non-profit firm has also branched out into a number of different areas, some of them quite surprising.

On the surface, the drive towards creating an in-house, open-source operating system was to counter the decline of the open web, something that tech die-hards have been concerned about for some time. With the rise of apps and walled garden approaches to software, Mozilla decided to act.

The result was Firefox OS, focusing on the mobile web, HTML5 and a very low entry price. Indeed, though it proved to be non-existent in the end, much of the early conversation was dominated by Mozilla's promise of the first (usable) $25 smartphone, running Firefox OS.

As time went by Mozilla achieved some success, managing to sell a small number of devices in Columbia and Venezuela, among other countries, but nothing like the quantities needed either to break even or to gain any market share.

The result was obsolescence and as the media train moved on interest in Firefox OS waned. Mozilla itself, lacking the resources of a Google or an Apple, proved to be seemingly only half-interested in its offering and eventually closed the mobile OS for good in the latter quarter of 2015.

Much like Palm OS (another entry on this list) though, the software lives on - in televisions. Panasonic now employs an altered version in many of its units, giving it an afterlife as part of the 'Internet of Things' (widely regarded as one of the worst tech newspeak terms since 'phablet' came into existence).

Palm OS/WebOS


Before Nokia and BlackBerry got into the touchscreen smartphone game, before Android began to explode and when the Apple iPhone was still a hobbled little thing there was Palm and WebOS.

Sporting a much imitated gesture interface, card-based multitasking (which has been aped by everyone since) and many other futuristic features, WebOS was arguably the first operating system that introduced the concept of "smart" to smartphones.

First found on the Palm Pre in June 2009, such was the potential behind WebOS that HP bought Palm outright in 2010 for $1.2 billion.

Soon, the tide began to turn. Apple brought out the iconic iPhone 4 while Android advanced its appeal considerably through the likes of the HTC Desire. Interest in WebOS began to wane, not helped by HP's seeming inability to find a vision for its new product.

Shortly following the abortive launch of the HP TouchPad in 2011 (49 days to be precise), HP abandoned WebOS and all devices running the software.

This marked the end of WebOS on smartphones, however the operating system has since found new life through LG, with the firm including it - to significant acclaim - in its smart televisions.

Windows Phone 7 and 8

Windows Phone

And now to the granddaddy of them all, at least in terms of money and effort spent. Windows Phone was Microsoft's answer to the Android/iOS duopoly, intended to have the strengths of both and the weaknesses of neither.

Sporting a bold new design and a daring interface utilizing 'live tiles', Windows Phone had a focus on simplicity and usability over unnecessary features and frippery.

Exercising total control over specifications and updates, Microsoft was able to keep the software experience tight and focused, leaving manufacturers to be inventive with their hardware, rather than over-complicating the user interface.

First debuting at MWC in 2010, Windows Phone 7 was a breath of fresh air, and enjoyed some not insignificant hardware support from PC OEMs – such as Dell, HP and Acer - looking to get in on the smartphone boom.

Initial enthusiasm led to a quick drop off in support, and soon Windows Phone 7 began to drift. Sensing the lack of momentum, Microsoft rebooted (knowing its way around a blue screen or six) with Windows Phone 8.

Sporting more functionality, and eventually the popular voice assistant Cortana, Windows Phone 8 nonetheless still failed to ignite the global market with a poorly stocked app store at the heart of the issues.

Now, the picture is grim. Microsoft has rebooted once again, this time with Windows 10 Mobile, another rejiggering of its mobile dream. However, with a lack of investment, in both funds and willpower, the platform is beginning to wilt badly, with the paucity of apps becoming even more problematic with several first party developers pulling out entirely (even Amazon is reported to be leaving the game).

Microsoft's mobile vision looks to be grinding to a halt, and it might take a true miracle to save it.

  • For an operating system that isn't likely to fail check out iOS 10
Continue reading »