Category Archives: Tips and Tools

Can free software meet my needs? – The Platforms

Can free software meet my needs?

Many of us are familiar with free software and applications, but can they really help us achieve personal or business needs?

The simple answer is YES, most definitely, free software can solve many problems and address many needs, but there are some gotchas to watch out for.

This series of Tips and Tools

In this series about free applications and software we will uncover the myriad of sources, many of which you may not even be aware of, we will consider the traps and gotchas that sourcing free software can throw up from the complexity of selecting the right software through to the security practices, required to protect you from malware and other risks.

The Platforms

Lets first consider at a high level the diverse platforms available on which to run free software. It is not until you understand all the platforms available, that you can realise the full potential and scale of free software available. We will cover these platforms in more detail in future posts, but this tip can tell you where to start looking; (in no particular order)

  • SmartPhone Application Stores Android, iPhone, Windows Phone and other providers
  • Desktop applications for your Windows, Linus or MAC
  • Programming language specific software like multi-platform Java applications
  • New Desktop application stores such as the Windows Store
  • Hidden browser features, eg type “timer for 5 minutes” in a Chrome browser address bar
  • Browser Applications and Plugins such as in FireFox and Chrome
  • Online applications and feature sites like or the more accessible
  • Locally hosted WebSite application software
    see Internet Hosted
  • Internet hosted Website Application software like, Installatron or Fantastico scripts
  • Features and plugins for Website Application software such as WordPress can be customised to special needs
  • Cloud provisioned Website applications like
  • Software Virtualisation platforms such as Docker
  • Portable applications platforms like for Windows.

Almost all the above platforms are available to us all, with only a little “guided setup” effort. We will address each of these platforms in later posts, along with some not listed here because they need special attention, needless to say, we predict they will “blow your mind”.

A lot more to follow

Here on People, Systems and Things we will keep you informed about any opportunities to operate or organise your personal and business life along with key tips, so please subscribe for future tips. Alternativly if you need answers now, contact us for obligation free advice.

Using a Browser for work. Tips and Tricks

Many powerful applications, websites and services including Office 365 are available online and in the Internet browser. As a result we are using the browser more and more to do our job. Here is a collection of tips that can improve your productivity. Please feel free to contribute more.

Use the Browser Zoom

On Windows PCs and common browsers holding the Ctrl key and rolling the Mouse Button allows you to zoom in and out on many screens. Adjust it to the size you need at the time. Make it easy to share the screen with someone sitting next to you, or get a big wide view to see the full page.

Back and Next

Learn when using the Back and Forward Button (next and Previous) in your browser to return o the last page or return. In some cases this will not work, but once you learn where you can use this returning to you last place and can be very useful.

Follow links the smart way

Webpages usually have a lot of links on them and clicking them can take you to a new page but sometimes it is not easy to return, or you would like keep the first page open. Learn how to open a link in a new page or Tab as a way to keep the first page open Right-Click a link in Windows as an example.

Use your Browsers Pin Tab, Group tabs and default tabs features

This can make you workday start quickly by preparing the tabs you need as soon as you open the browser. I use Pin Tab and reopen last tabs features to prepare my browser for everyday tasks in FireFox.

Create Browser users

In Chrome you can create different users of chrome, and these can have their own default tabs, saved login credentials and pined tabs. Create a Shortcut to access each user for different functions. You can even use productivity techniques to ensure you are not distracted by emails and messages while you focus on specific tasks.

Close Tabs and Browsers to save memory

Using a Plugin such as OneTab in Firefox and Chrome lets you quickly close all open tabs (excluding pinned ones), but OneTab saves all the open tabs into a list of links, so they can quickly be reopened. Do not fear loosing a valuable lead in you effort to reduce the demand on your computers resources. Having many tabs open can be confusing and distracting but also may use a lot of your computers resources and closing them help the computer run faster.



Kill the caps lock

How often is the Caps lock key a problem for you?

  • You are typing away only tO FIND you need to delete and retype a word or a whole sentence?
  • Or you try twice to login with a password to discover the caps lock key was on, or worse you lock yourself out because of too many attempts?
  • Do people complain your are SHOUTING too much in social media?

Now tell us when do you use the caps lock key for a serious purpose?

I thought so, most likely never!

Perhaps it made sense when;

  • Pressing two type writer keys at once was hard work
  • We did not have heading styles to nicely format headings so used all caps
  • Auto capitalisation on a new sentence was not available
  • You are a professional touch typist who never makes a mistake

I killed the caps lock key

For me I see no advantage having a caps lock key and the disadvantages occurred half a dozen times every day. Sometimes fixing the problem was frustrating and time consuming. So what did I do?,

I killed the caps lock key on my computer. I used SharpKeys to remap the caps lock key to the more benign shift key and have not looked back.

A feature on your computer, a utility or some registry hacks can be found to remap keys on any computer. Just search for a solution to suit you computer and operating system and I think you will be pleased. But don’t go overboard, because too much re-mapping will cause new problems and every now and then you will need to use another keyboard or computer.

Please let us know where else caps lock gives you grief or other key remappings that people could use.


Browser Productivity, what I learned from old fashioned phones

Is a Web Browser now one of the places you spend a lot of time be it for work or play? If not I expect your use of browsers in one form or another will increase as more is moving to the Cloud (the internet) every day.

We at People, Systems and Things do spend a lot of time in the browser building solutions for our clients, researching opportunities and a myriad of cloud platforms. As a result we have faced a suit of problems and productivity issues that as solutions providers we have applied our skills to solving. We love to share, so we are starting a series of turbo powered browser tips that will help you be browser smart.

In some cases we will highlight features of a particular browser however with a little searching most of these can be applied to any browser, sometimes with the addition of a plugin, Extension or app.

So what did I learn from old fashioned phones?

When I started my working life, there was no internet, but even once it was available (I was an early adopter) the phone on the desk or in the warehouse was a key to almost all business operations. When work demanded it, learning how to use the phone to transfer a call, put it on hold, use the speaker phone was critical to your productivity. Given this you may be surprised that  when I asked fellow workers how to do something with the phone they often had no idea.  I came to realise that most people know little about the most important and fundamental tools they use everyday. Many of us  learn a minimum and leave it there. The problem with this is those key tools are a big part of your day, the time and effort expended using the phone was a large component of what people do all day and yet most people have no more than a basic understanding of them.

This discovery has informed me in my whole career, I actively review the tools I use regularly and endeavour to learn what I can about them, use “make it stick” practices to remember what I learn and use this knowledge to improve both my productivity and professional reputation.

Today the browser is also near the centre of many of our day to day activities, the phone also remains near the centre, but in now also a mobile computer, which incidentally has a browser in it. As Molly Meldrum used to say on Countdown (Australian Reference) “do yourself a favour” and spend a little time on your key tools.

Subscribe to our website at or Follow us in facebook to guarantee you follow our productivity enhancing tips, and this series about Browser Productivity.



Running out of GMail Space? Want a quick solution?

I was an early adopter of gmail from Google, and I can’t speak too highly of it. There are great tools and features and the advertising that is associated with it’s free service, is reasonable and not intrusive, so much so, if it is relevant to me I do have a look at what advertisers offer. You can even tell google what adds are inappropriate.

I use a single In-box to service a range of email addresses as well which means I was until recently approaching my free 15Gb storage limit. I will post on tips and tricks with GMail in future posts but what follows is a quick and easy way to recover space from your GMail account.

To see how much space you are using select the settings cog at the top right,


At the bottom of most settings tabs you can see your usage


Perhaps you can leave it if you have less than 90% used, but sooner or later you may have to act.  Select manage and you can look in more detail. Mouse over the pie chart for a indication of what is using your space (not only email contributes to this limit)


If you do need to remove some emails to increase the available space, Return to your in-box and follow these easy instructions.

Choose your Primary or other tab such as promotions, if you have this feature. Then select the first example of a reoccurring email you know is filling up your in-box, you may want to unsubscribe at this point if you don’t care for them. Now follow these quick steps to eliminate them.

Open one of the repetitive emails, then select more and Filter Messages like these;


The filter dialogue will appear, something like this;


It will sometimes look different and you can use the other options to refine your filter further.

Now select the Search button


A list of emails that match will appear. Notice how they show the most recent first, after a page or two you will be looking at quite old emails and their potential value diminishes.

Now select the check box at the top left of the list of emails and it will check all items in the list you can see;


If you have more than the displayed number of emails, that meet your filter settings the following will appear;


Scan through the list of emails to confirm you are happy to delete them. You may want to click the Next to check ones that are not yet displayed.


and again;


Notice how it may have being lying. If you are confident you can delete all matching emails, click on Select all Conversations that match this search.


and you will see


Now click on the trash can


Then Click OK to confirm the batch action

All the emails will be placed in the Trash. Messages that have been in Trash more than 30 days will be automatically deleted.

Do this for a few more of your space wasting emails and you will recover a lot of space.

Of Course, if you want to, you can buy more space and you may need to, if you use Google Drive or Photos a lot.

Enterprise social vs Email

Most internet users today are familiar with email and it continues to play an important role however many of us are aware of some of its limitations.

Watch the following video to really grasp the issue.

The answer is to use other means of communication for a lot of our collaboration and communications. Enterprise social is a great example of tools fit for purpose and Yammer is a great example (Now part of the Office 365 stable), such tools fit into the category

Email is a great “universal address”, allows you register for sites and other services and is good for a whole lot more, but the time has come for the “internet crowd” to get a little more informed.

People, Systems and Things can help individuals get the most from social enterprise solutions as well as build a culture of “The Conversation” in your organisation.

Need to charge any Phone or Tablet in a hurry?

Follow this tip to charge your device much quicker and at no cost.

Here at People, Systems and Things we love our gadgets and come to depend on them. Dependence on anything powered by battery has its drawbacks.

Have you ever being about to leave on a flight, or a long road journey and you are not sure if you can plugin for a charge en-route? Well hopefully you will have a power bank (charged before hand) but then you may want to keep this backup power for when you really need it.


This will not work for all devices, but it has for many we have used. The Tip?

  • Simply switch it off, all the way off, power down and plug it in.
  • Use as short a USB Power cable as possible as this too can slow a charge,
  • and make sure you are using a higher amperage USB port such as a mains power connected 2A Socket.
  • If you are charging a phone, consider forwarding all calls to another number for the time you need to charge.


The result?

We have anecdotally found the recharge time to be half of our switched on devices. It makes sense, no power is used while charging, the device is not as hot as it could be when on, and may not “back off” on the charging process as a result, and you can’t use it in this state so you will keep your wandering fingers off it.

Please let us know if you have any additional tips for this kind of scenario. can help you with all your computer needs so contact us if you need further help.

The Cloud for Couples?

People, Systems and Things has been an early adopter of Cloud apps and services since they appeared. I suppose it is inevitable that we may bring some of these into our personal lives. Here a few you may consider using with your better half or even a close business partner.

Google Keep – Allows notes and to do lists to be shared

  • Use it for Important reminders to each other
  • Maintain a reusable Shopping list you can both see
    (uncheck an item when something runs out)
  • Keep lists of things you need or lost items

Trello – Cards and Card Stacks – when a simple list is not enough.
Create Private and Shared Boards

  • Use it to list items and move them to a different card stack as needed
    For example to know where things are if you have a second address such as a holiday home
  • Use it to brainstorm lists of things before traveling
  • Plan everything for a big event such as a wedding
  • Keep lists of possible gifts for each other or friends and family

Google Calendars – Allows multiple Calendars for multiple Purposes

  • Share your calendars, so its easy to see when you a both free, for that important dinner or to respond to an invite.
  • Separate Work, Home and personal interest appointments on separate calendars but select which one(s) you want to see as needed
  • Plan your day in detail, and the gaps indicate to your partner when you are free

We will post more detailed tips on these tools at a later date.


What are your everyday tools in the Cloud, and which work well for couples. Please let us know on our Facebook page or WebSite.