Two free, helpful utilities
I have to admit that the most frequent sources of ideas for this column are interesting questions asked by callers on my weekly radio show on KLVI (6 p.m. Mondays, 560AM), and e-mails from readers of this column. In a somewhat unusual move for me, I will respond to two of those inquiries in this column.
From a variety of causes, including external electrical problems, damage done by malware, and file errors caused by the applications being used, it is not at all uncommon for files to become damaged or corrupted. Sometimes the damage is unrecoverable because the file has been overwritten by other data or has otherwise been rendered unreadable, but many times an apparently damaged file can be recovered. These corrupted files often become apparent through the display of a popup window giving an error statement such as “file is not in a recognizable format; unable to read file; file cannot be accessed; application cannot open the type of file represented by filename,” or by giving a mysterious “out of memory” or “low system resources” error, indicating that the file cannot be read or opened.
I have had good success recovering damaged and corrupted files using a utility aptly named File Repair, which is available as a free 1 mb download from www.filerepair1.com. According to the File Repair Web site, “File Repair is 100 freeware: No ads, no beg screens, no feature or time limits. It is completely free for you to use and enjoy.”
File Repair works very simply by loading the program, and then selecting the corrupted file to repair. The program will then scan the infected file and attempt to repair it; it is just that simple. If a file cannot be completely repaired but still contains some recoverable data, File Repair will attempt to recover the maximum amount of data from the damaged file and write the recovered data to a new, usable file. File Repair might be able to recover many types of corrupted data files including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access files (both the older formats and the newer “x” formats used in the 2007 and 2010 versions of Office); corrupted compressed files (ZIP and RAR formats); all common video formats (.avi, .mp4, .mov, .flv, .wmv, .asf, .mpg); all common image formats (including .jpg, .jpeg, .gif, .tiff, .bmp, .png); damaged PDF files; and some of the most widely used music formats (.mp3, .wav).
I tried File Repair on some older files that I knew were not readable because they were corrupted, and in each case it took only a matter of a few seconds to read, analyze, attempt to repair the damage and rewrite the files with a filename that I selected. File Repair was able to fully recover most of the files, which actually surprised me. Some of the files were mostly restored, with some obviously missing data or unreadable data; in an Excel spreadsheet (.xls format), Fire Repair allowed me to open a previously unreadable (by Excel) spreadsheet, but some of the cells had “garbage” in them, a problem that could be manually entered, making the spreadsheet usable. A previous column that was in .doc format that had been corrupted was almost totally recovered, except for the last few lines that were either displayed as random text or totally missing; it was as if the original file had been cut off or truncated at the end. I was able to somewhat restore an old .gif image file, making it mostly complete but quite viewable, with only some small areas appearing pixilated (blurred with incorrect pixels); this was much better than not being able to view the image at all. As a free service with reasonably fast turnaround, the creator of File Repair openly offers to attempt to recover otherwise unrecoverable files. “You can send us your file for the manual repair of the file. Our repair experts will analyze the file and repair it for you. Once the file has been received, it generally takes 1-24 hours to process. You can send your corrupted file as an attachment to us via e-mail repair [at] filerepair1 [dot] com.” Obviously, do not e-mail files that are highly personal, confidential or otherwise sensitive in content.
Complete recovery, or enough recovery to make the file useful, was better than the alternative of having totally useless files. File Repair should be in everyone’s software collection.
Printing Web pages
Several people have asked me about an easy way to print Web pages without all of the images and ads, either as a hard printed copy or as a PDF file that can be easily saved. My personal favorite is PrintFriendly at printfriendly.com. This handy free utility (supported by ads on the Web site when used) is most convenient when installed as a button on the Bookmark or Favorites toolbar in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers. By opening a Web page and clicking on the “Print Friendly” icon on the toolbar, the service opens a window offering the user several choices, including print, create and download a PDF file, or e-mail the cleaned Web page. The user can also control the text size and remove images for faster printing; the user can also edit the content prior to printing, e-mailing or creating a PDF. PrintFriendly has created a YouTube video at youtube.com that demonstrates how to use PrintFriendly and all of its features and functions.
In addition to a “Print Friendly” button on a Web browser, there is also an option to place a customized button on any of the users’ own Web sites or blogs, including Blogger/Blogspot, Wordpress.org (hosted), and Wordpress.com, which will allow that site’s viewers to selectively utilize the Print Friendly functions directly from the Web page or blog. As a final alternative, if none of the previous methods are available, the user may manually enter (or copy and paste) an Internet address in the box on the top of the printfriendly.com page, and the same print, PDF and e-mail options will be available. Print Friendly can save a lot of ink and time when printing blogs or Web sites to paper, and can alternatively create and save these blogs or Web sites as PDF files.
I have installed the PrintFriendly icon on all of my browser toolbars, and use it very frequently to efficiently print documents to paper, create PDF files of Web sites and e-mail the cleaned content of Web pages and blogs to others. Since it takes up little browser landscape and does not degrade browser performance, it is a very handy (and free) tool to have and use. PrintFriendly is one of those simple tools that you did not know how much you needed it until you have it and use it. It is a great little tool.