Laptops offer many advantages compared to desktop computers. Most importantly they are small and portable. The convenient hardware features of laptops, however, also imply a lot of limitations, for example finite battery life, a smaller keyboard, or an irritating touch-pad.
In this article I will introduce you to a selection of programs for laptops that address these hardware limitations. The tools in this list will make working with your laptop keyboard and touch-pad more convenient and increase battery lifetime. And just in case someone takes advantage of its portability, you better had a tool installed that allows you to track your laptop.
TouchFreeze DownloadOne of the greatest annoyances on a laptop can be the touch-pad. The most common issue is that the cursor is accidentally triggered and jumps to a random place while you are typing and gently brushing over the touch-pad with your hands. This is especially common for people who touch type. Touch Freeze helps solve the issue by automatically disabling the touch-pad while the keyboard is in use.
Auto Sensitivity DownloadAnother tool that tries to deal with the touch-pad dilemma is Auto Sensitivity. The tool can be used to control the sensitivity of the touch-pad and the mouse. A lower sensitivity basically means that the cursor will be less responsive or slower.
Unfortunately, my hardware doesn’t seem to allow separate settings for touchpad and mouse sensitivity and hence the tool did not work as expected. Note that Auto Sensitivity requires .NET Framework 3.5 or 4.0.
Two-Finger-Scroll DownloadTouch pads that only support the use of a single finger are utterly limited. Yet the hardware often is capable of interpreting the touch of two or even three fingers at once. This is where Two-Finger-Scroll comes in and taps into the unused potential of your touch-pad.
It doesn’t exactly enable multi - touch features known from iOS or Android devices. However, it does enable some familiar behaviors. For example you will be able to scroll up and down when you swipe over the touch-pad using two fingers, while using one finger will only move the cursor.
It also supports different behaviors for tapping the touch-pad. For example you can assign tapping with two fingers to activating the left and tapping with three fingers to activating the right mouse button. ‘One + one‘ or ‘two + one‘ means that you rest one or two fingers on the touchpad and tap with a second or third finger, respectively.
Whether or not these features will work for you depends on your touch-pad. Unlike some of the other tools above, they worked perfectly for me, although it does take some practice to get the tapping just right.
Two-Finger-Scroll received thorough coverage here - How To Easily Activate Two Finger Scroll In Windows Laptops
Sharp Keys DownloadLaptops are small and so are their keyboards, hence the transition from a full-sized keyboard can be hard. Moreover, some functions require hitting several keys, which can be inconvenient. At the same time, there may be keys available that you never use.
If you want to put some of your unused keys to good use, try SharpKeys, an application that allows you to remap your keys by tweaking the registry. Apart from remapping keys, you can also turn keys off, i.e. disable them.
SharpKeys was featured on MakeUseOf along with two similar tools in this article: Remap Keyboard Keys with These 3 Free Apps [Windows].
Aero foil DownloadAero foil tackles the limited energy resources when your laptop is running on battery power. Once you disconnect from A/C power, Aero foil will step in and optimize your Windows Vista or Windows 7 system for saving power. It does that by disabling Windows features like Aero Glass, muting the sound, or switching to a different Windows power plan.
Some sources claim that Aero foil can extend your battery life by up to 25%. The tool runs on minimal system resources and all features are optional. Aero foil is available for Windows Vista and Windows 7 in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
Note that if you get an error message saying msvcp100.dll is missing, you may need a Windows update. Details are listed on the download page for Aero foil, below the download links for the tool itself.
Prey DownloadDo you often work in public places and are you worried that your laptop might get stolen? Prey won’t protect your laptop from thieves, but if it ever does get taken away from you, you can use the software to keep track of its location and possibly get it back.
For a comprehensive introduction to Prey, check out this article -
LoJack is a device that’s made life harder for would-be car thieves. Here’s how it works: a GPS chip capable of calling home is hidden somewhere on a given car. If that car is stolen, the police now have the ability to track where it is via GPS.
Wish you had something like this for your laptop? You can, and it won’t cost you a dime. Open source program Prey can do this for your computer quickly and easily, giving you the location of your computer via your on-board GPS chip or by analyzing nearby WiFi networks. Not only that, it will show you screenshots of what the thief is using your computer for. And if you have a webcam, even take a picture of them before they realize it, before you recover your stolen laptop.
We’ve reviewed similar programs before — Lalarm, Adeona and Firefox plugin Firefound, just to name a few. Prey differs from these in a few ways, but the most important one to keep in mind is that Prey is cross platform — meaning it works on Linux, Mac and Windows.
Setting UpSetting up Prey is simple. Just head over to the Prey download page and download the version of Prey your operating system needs. Install the program and you’ll be told how to launch the configuration tool on your platform. Fire up that tool and you’ll see something like this:
As you can see, you need to register. No problem; just go to Prey’s signup page and sign up. You’ll need to do the standard register, email, confirm process but don’t worry: it’s worth it.
Once you are signed up you’ll get your API key; you’ll need this to configure Prey. You’ll also need a device key, which you can get easily by adding your computer to your Prey account online. Just click “Add a new device” and you’ll see some straight-forward steps. Complete this and you’ll have a device key. Go back to the Prey configuration tool and add this:
TrackingNow that you’re set up, you’re ready to track your laptop. By default Prey does nothing, but when your laptop goes missing you can log onto Prey’s website and activate your protection. Do this and you’ll receive an email as soon as the thief turns on your computer, linking you to a report so you can recover your stolen laptop.
Be sure to configure Prey online in order to get the most of it. For example, you can enable your webcam to get a picture of your thief, or turn on your computer’s GPS chip to give you a precise location. Explore your options. Find a full list of features over at PreyProject.com
Conclusion: Useless? Not EntirelyYou might be wondering if this product is of any use if the laptop is reformatted, or stripped down and sold for parts. Well, not really. But many thieves aren’t all that smart; you’d be surprised how many will start up a stolen laptop without thinking about the possibility of such tracking software.
It’s also possible that a thief will fire up your laptop in order to try to find private information about you. How ironic would it be, then, if you get private information about them in the process! So it won’t save your laptop under all circumstances, but it might help in some. The main thing to remember is that this tool doesn’t cost you a dime, so why not install it just for the peace of mind? You might well be glad you did someday.
What do you think? Is a tool like this cool, or a mere gimmick? Would you install this, or can you not image a thief dumb enough to boot up a stolen laptop?
And what I’m most interested in is this: have any of you successfully used this program to recover a stolen laptop? Please share your story if you have; we’re all ears!
What are your best tips and tricks for working with a laptop or net book? Are there any gems you would like to share with us?
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