February 2005, Week 4 --
Recovering Lost Files
We found two programs that recover files.
"Undelete 4.0," from Executive Software
www.executive.com, does exactly that for Windows PCs.
The program replaces Windows' "recycle bin" with its own "recovery
bin." Here it deposits every version of every document you've worked on
in Microsoft Office. Every time you "save," there's a copy of that
version in the recovery bin. If you later think you liked an earlier
saved version of a PowerPoint presentation better than the one you have
now, just go back and get it.
Undelete will recover any file, not just text. It did fine recovering
deleted pictures or sound files as well as spreadsheets and text. You
can create a separate recovery bin for each drive, and you can conserve
disk space by setting limits on the number of versions of any file that
can be saved. When you finally do delete the files, the program lets you
"shred" the data. so no one else can recover it.
Undelete, Home version, lists for $30; Undelete Professional is $40 and
requires Windows XP Professional or higher. The server version (for
networks) costs $300. The program worked beautifully except for one
feature: When you first install it, a message pops up offering to
immediately recover any files you may have recently deleted. That was a
nice offer but we couldn't find all the files we had deleted.
www.download.com we found "VirtualLab Recovery 4.8.1." Despite it's
unwieldy title and $100 price tag it drew raves normally reserved for
deeply moving experiences.
We downloaded the free trial version and right off the bat it was
able to read all the files contained on an external drive that was
locked -- supposedly with no access. That was a good sign, but nothing
to the ringing testimony of a user who had reformatted a friend's disk
drive, inadvertantly destroying her data files, but recovered all with
his new VirtualLab disk. Attempts with other, similar products had
failed, and his advice: don't go cheap.
The initial price of the program does not limit your cost. You have
to pay an additional fee for each megabyte of data recovered in a
particular recovery session. There is a built-in "chat" feature that you
can work with as you recover lost files and a technician at the other
end of the chat line helps you through the recovery process. How much
data and how long this takes determines the cost. In practice, an
extensive recovery might cost around $150. But as they say in the custom
car shop: do it right.
Unlike Undelete, VirtualLab works with all Windows file systems and
Mac. It can rescue data from any drive, including the flash drives of
digital camera cards. The free trial version of the program will recover
up to half a megabyte with no charge to the user. Lots more info at
Read me a story
Programs that can read whatever text is on the screen have been
around for 30 years. Most of them work pretty well but you usually have
to be content with a robotic reading voice.
If you go to
www.download.com you can find lots of these programs by typing "text
aloud" in the search box. As it happens, "Text Aloud" is also the name
of one of the best programs. Another we liked was "Speakonia," which
sounds like a mock European country, and it happens to be populated by
robots. Speakonia is free from
Text Aloud is free to try, $30 to buy,
www.nextup.com. You can record the reading voice as a WAV or MP3
file and listen to it later on your CD or MP3 player. The reading voice
can be changed in pitch, volume (down to a whisper) and speed.
AT&T, which used to be
the phone company, has something called "Natural Voices" which can be
added to some of the text reading programs. The voices cost $35 each and
we tried several, finding they did indeed sound natural. These voices
are much easier to listen to than computer generated robotic voices and
as a consequence it's easier to pay attention.
NOTE: Because you can get newspapers and magazines online, these
reading programs can be very useful for catching up on information
without having to sit in front of a computer screen. Ecola
www.ecola.com is one of the great web sites, with links to an
enormous selection of newspapers and magazines from all over the world.
Throw out the clones
"No Clones" finds duplicate files. You can search by file name,
content or partially matched text. You can examine each case or set the
program to automatically delete the older matching files or move them to
a folder for checking later. A preview window lets you see what you're
about to delete; this is especially handy for photos.
No Clones is free to try, $27 to buy, from
www.noclone.net. We tried it and we liked it.
"Fun With Photoshop Elements 3, Foto-Fakery for Everyone," by Rhoda
Grossman; $25 from Sams
This is one of those books that completely lives up to its title.
The author is a cartoonist and shows the reader some entertaining tricks
with Adobe's excellent Photoshop Elements program. The book is lavishly
illustrated. If you have the program, you'll like this book.
NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers"
www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at
firstname.lastname@example.org and Joy Schwabach at
Copyright 2005 Universal Press Syndicate