Knowledge Base

What is New in Windows 8 – Part 2

Microsoft is gearing up for the release of Windows 8 on October 26th of 2012. As a promotion for the new OS, they will be selling upgrades for as little as $40 that will work for users of Windows XP, Vista, or 7. Compared to many previous releases, that is an almost absurdly low price. That in mind, what do customers really get that’s new in Windows 8 compared to previous releases?

The most obvious change is the move to the Metro UI. Metro is a tile-based interface previously seen on Windows Phone 7. It can be considered the new face of the operating system. The Start Menu has been replaced by a Metro-style Start Screen and Microsoft will now be running their own App Store specifically for programs designed with Metro in mind.

The Start Screen shows off your installed applications. Rather than giving just an icon, however, all programs designed for Metro can be made to display Live Tiles. This means that you can get updates from your various apps simply by hitting the Start button. Live Tiles are handy for all the little things like weather reports and appointment reminders that are useful to glance at but don’t normally require significant attention. Tiles on the Start Screen can be arranged according to user preference and are available in two sizes. There’s a great deal of potential personalization as a result.

Windows 8 is backward compatible, unlike the offshoot Windows RT that runs on ARM-based tablet PCs. That raises the question of why one would bother with apps designed for the new interface when older programs run just fine the way they are. Fortunately Live Tiles are not the only thing that Metro offers.

The biggest appeal will likely come from the functionality provided by what is called the Charm Bar. This bar, which can be accessed from the right side of the screen, can be opened at any time when using Windows 8. It ties things together by allowing apps to link common functions to the default interface rather than forcing developers to create their own solutions.

Consider basic search functions. Using the Charm Bar you can search for an installed application, an item in the store, or a recipe in your favorite cookbook and the process is always the same. You open the bar, select “Search”, and type what you want to find. There’s no confusion.

The same sort of shared functionality is provided for social functions. It is possible to share information to the program of your choice from pretty much anywhere. Sending a webpage to a note-taking app is the same as sending a news article to your Facebook page. A few such options are available by default, but more are added depending on what each user has installed. I might like the ability to send things to a Twitter feed but have no use for anything else, in which case sharing information via Twitter will be one of the only options presented to me.

This sort of interface unity provides a far more cohesive experience than Windows users are generally accustomed to. While it will be a major adjustment in many ways, the advantages are obvious. There’s more to a Windows 8 move than just interface improvements, though. Some of the most exciting changes are happening in less obvious places.

Windows 8 is putting an emphasis on Cloud presence, for example. Every user has the option of making their system account a universal account. This means that it’s possible to sign in via another computer and have all of your system settings saved and waiting for you already. Users will also have access to SkyDrive by default, which provides 7GB of Cloud storage for free. Office 2013 is heavily integrated with that storage option, so it’s useful to have around.

Safety features have been improved greatly. Windows 8 is perhaps the most secure operating system to come out of Microsoft so far. Metro apps are curated and Windows 8 computers will have precautions in place to prevent some of the more difficult to remove types of malware from ever getting a foothold in the system.

If a computer does manage to get infected, however, there is also a new alternative to reinstalling Windows. The System Refresh option will change all system files back to their factory default state, eliminating a great deal of damage. The System Reset will return the entire computer to its original state, effectively accomplishing a reinstallation without the hassle of actually reinstalling the operating system manually. Both options are surprisingly fast.

In terms of performance, Windows 8 is generally a step up. Boot time has been greatly improved. Microsoft’s earliest information about the development of this project involved a lot of bragging about booting in as little as 8 seconds on a fairly good computer. Performance has generally been stepped up in other areas as well, with attention being given to speeding up graphics rendering by improving DirectX and pushing more of the load onto the GPU when the option is available. Everything runs more smoothly as a result.

While there is certainly a lot of irritation being expressed by people unhappy with the introduction of Metro, both because its app store is a Microsoft-controlled system and because it is tablet-friendly, there is little aside from that to complain about. Improvements are present in every area you might hope for and all of your existing programs are likely to run just fine. The Windows 8 upgrade is an easy decision.

Comparison of Different Camera RAW Formats

There is a lot of confusion and debate which surrounds camera RAW formats. This is mostly due to whether or not you should shoot in RAW or some other type of format. In this article we will clarify exactly what RAW mode is and the difference between the different RAW formats.

RAW Mode Defined

When you are shooting with a digital camera, the volume of light which reaches each pixel is recorded by an imaging chip inside the camera. The recording is an analog voltage which is then converted into a digital characterization. Depending upon the type of camera you have, the circuitry will determine the amount of data bits that are recorded. The number of data bits will determine the level of brightness in the exposure.

The amount of brightness you can achieve with the photo is determined by the format in which you save an image. If you save it in RAW format, this allows you to work with a greater number of brightness levels as opposed to saving it in JPG. Camera RAW files are considered to be unprocessed, which means you have more to work with when you process the photos on your PC. This includes tint, hue and temperature adjustments, to name a few processes. For these reasons, RAW format is the preferred format for working with digital images.

Different Camera RAW Formats

There are different RAW formats. Let’s take a look at a few common RAW formats to compare the differences. Note that different types of RAW photos are saved by a specific brand of camera but can be processed with a broad range of image editing programs.

  • SRF: This is a RAW format which is used by upper end cameras manufactured by Sony. This type can be processed using conversion software for image data which is compatible with the Windows operating system.
  • NEF: It is a RAW format which is used with Nikon cameras and is stored in the exact format as recorded by CCD (Charged-Coupled Device) technology. NEF can be processed with Nikon Capture software using a Windows-based PC and by Mac OS compatible software.
  • CR2: The CR2 format is a RAW image format that is created by high-end Canon digital cameras. It is based on TIFF (Tagged Image File Format). However, if you have an earlier Canon, then the image will be in CRW format based on CIFF, or Camera Image File Format. You can process CR2 with ZoomBrowser software or Canon Digital Photo Professional for Mac OS.
  • ORF: This is a format used with Olympus digital cameras. The format varies according to the type of Olympus camera you are using. The images are taken using the camera’s sensor with exposure settings modified with Olympus Master for MacOS and Windows.
  • RAF: It refers to uncompressed RAW images that are produced using a high-end Fuji digital camera. RAF is typically produced along with a JPG version and can be processed using Fuji Hyper-Utility Software for both Windows and Mac OS.
  • PEF: This is an uncompressed RAW format which stands for Pentax Electronic Format and is produced by a Pentax digital camera. The image is taken with the camera’s sensor minus color modifications and compression and can be processed using the Pentax Photo Browser or Photo Laboratory for both Windows and Mac OS.

These are a few of the common types of RAW formats used with different brands of digital cameras. It is also important to mention that all formats can be processed using Adobe Creative Suite CS6. If you are working with the Linux operating system, you can process RAW formats using Google Picasa or GIMP editing software.

How to Open TIFF Files

TIFF is a very early file format for images which was initially developed in 1987 and is still popular in applications such as Adobe Creative Suite and Photoshop. TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format and is a popular format due to its flexibility to support multiple image processing applications. TIFF is also commonly referred to as TIF and is typically used for bitmap data.

Although you can easily open images with .TIFF file extensions with an image processing application, such as Adobe Photoshop. If you do not own these applications it may be necessary to reconfigure your PC in order to open and view a TIFF file. You can also choose to use a free software application that is designed to open a TIFF file. First, let’s cover the first option of reconfiguring your PC.

No Application is Associated with This File Type

When you attempt to open an image with .TIFF extension, sometimes you will receive a message “No application is associated with this file type.” This can be a frustrating experience when you have no knowledge of TIFF formats and how they work.

If you are experiencing an error message when attempting to open a TIFF file, here is an easy fix that you can try to enable TIFF viewing with the Windows operating system. Keep in mind that the steps may vary slightly according to the version of Windows you have installed on your PC, but here is a general fix:

  • Open My Computer: Click on Start and then choose My Computer from the pop-up menu. You may also be able to access My Computer right from your Desktop. When the My Computer window opens, choose Tools and then click on Folder Options.
  • Access Files: Choose the Files tab and allow it load the list of file extensions. Scroll down the list until you see TIFF and then click on it once and choose Change. Choose the program you want to use to open the TIFF file and then click on OK.

If you are using Windows 7, it will be necessary to open the Control Panel. To do this, click on Start and then choose Control Panel from the pop-up menu.

  • Choose Default Programs: When the Control Panel window opens, click on Default Programs and then choose “Associate a file type or protocol with a specific program.”
  • Find the TIFF File Extension: Once the extension list loads scroll down the list and locate TIFF. Click on TIFF once and then choose Change Program to open a list of recommended programs.
  • Choose a Program: Choose a program from the list for opening the file and then click on OK.

It is also important to mention that you must accomplish the above steps by choosing both .TIF and .TIFF from the list. Also, if one program you choose for opening a TIFF file does not work, then try an alternative program from the list.

Converting TIFF Files

If you still are unable to open a TIFF file, you may want to consider converting it to another extension such as .jpg, .png, or other. In this case you can opt to use Photoshop if you happen to own the program or you can search online for graphics converter software. There is a host of reliable freeware online that will help you convert image formats.

How to Open KML and KMZ Files

KML and KMZ files are those which are designed to represent two and three-dimensional geographical images. KML and KMZ formats are typically used for programs such as Google Earth and are capable of indicating geographical data, such as latitude and longitude and more recently objects in 3D.

If you are unfamiliar with KML and KMZ file types, first we will define what they are and exactly what they do. Then we will explain how to open each file to help you get started with them.

KML and KMZ Files Defined

KML stands for Keyhole Markup Language and is a file which contains geographic modeling information for geo-browser applications such as Google Earth. The models in KML files include latitude, longitude, lines, points, images, and polygons which are used to label specific geographic locations on a map image. KML files were originally developed by Keyhole Company before they were acquired by Google several years ago to be used with Google Maps and other Earth browser programs.

KMZ stands for Keyhole Markup Language Zipped and is basically a compressed or zipped KML file which contains all of the related resource and subfolders of the KML file, only they are in a compressed format. A KMZ file stores map locations, place marks, and folders associated with a bird’s eye view of earth locations. It can also store 3D data models which are created in CAD programs, such as Google SketchUp. The data models are used for placement in a location on Google Maps to determine what a structure will look like in its everyday surroundings.

KML files can occupy a lot of hard drive space, so KMZ makes them more compact by compressing them in a zipped filed format. It also makes the KML file easier to distribute and share with multiple users.

How to Open KML and KMZ Files

To open KML and KMZ files with a Geo-browser program, such as Google Earth:

  • Install Google Maps: First, it is important to make sure you have Google Earth installed on your PC. If you do not have the program, you can download it by visiting the Google website.
  • Use Compression Software: Since KML files are typically compressed into KMZ using compression software, you can unzip them to view the contents with such programs as WinZip or WinRar.
  • KML File Software: Software which supports KML files and opens KMZ files also include Google Maps, Bing Maps, and Google SketchUp, which is Google’s free CAD program. It is also possible to open KML and KMZ files using FileCure, designed to open unknown file extension types.

In the event you do not want to wait for KML or KMZ files to open once you download them to a folder, you can take a shortcut and open them directly in Google Earth to view the file contents online. You can accomplish this by copying the link to the KML or KMZ file and then simply pasting it into the search box for Google Maps. Or you can opt to paste the links into the Google search engine. When the search results appear, click on View on Google Maps to plot the contents of the KML or KMZ file using your browser.

This should help you get a head start on opening and working with KML and KMZ files using Geo-browser software.


How to Open PPT Files

Have you ever tried to open a PowerPoint file that someone has sent you only to receive an error message? If this sounds familiar, this is a common occurrence with users who do not have PowerPoint installed on their PC or they have an older version of Microsoft Office.

PPT file extensions refer to PowerPoint presentations created in older versions of Microsoft Office where PPTX files are PowerPoint presentations created with newer versions of PowerPoint. If you are frustrated by these extensions, you have several options without having to shell out a lot of money to open PowerPoint files.

PowerPoint Viewer 2007

If you have an older version of Microsoft Office installed on your PC, PowerPoint Viewer 2007 is a free download which will help you open PowerPoint presentations created by PowerPoint 2007 and later. PowerPoint Viewer 2007 allows you to view and print PPT and PPTX files but does not allow you to edit them.

PowerPoint Viewer 2007 works with Windows 2000 and higher and will allow you to open presentations that date as far back as PowerPoint 1997 in addition to 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, and 2010. The program is available for download from the Microsoft website.


OpenOffice offers a full suite of office applications which have been developed by a community of programmers at OpenOffice is free to download and contains basically the same applications as Microsoft Office including a PowerPoint program. If you download the latest version, you will be able to open PPT file extensions as well as PPTX.

OpenOffice is compatible with a broad range of operating systems and platforms and is a full-featured application which offers many options for functionality without the price tag to go with it. You can download it by accessing the OpenOffice website.

Opening PPT Files in a Browser

If you are trying to open a PPT or PPTX file that is embedded in a website, the problem may not necessarily be on the website author’s side. Instead, the issue is related to control over whether or not the file opens in the browser, in the PowerPoint program itself, or the PowerPoint Viewer. Additionally, there are other factors that may come into play, such as the version of PowerPoint used to create the file, the website MIME settings, the version of PowerPoint you have on your computer, or the type of browser you are using to view the file.

In order to open PPT files from a website, there are a few factors to open them successfully. First, if the PowerPoint presentation was created in a newer version and the file is PPTX, you may be prompted to save the file or if you try to open it, you will receive a message about your PC being unable to open the file.

In this case you must have PowerPoint 2007 Viewer installed as mentioned earlier, PowerPoint 2007 installed, or a program such as OpenOffice set to default when you click on the presentation. You can also use Folder Options to configure the PPT or PPTX files to open in PowerPoint or a designated program instead of the browser.

To use Folder Options, simply click on My Computer and then choose the Tools tab in the My Computer window. On the drop-down menu click on Folder Options and then choose File Types. Wait for the list to load and then click on PPT Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation and then click the Advanced button. Tick the box next to Confirm open after download and then click OK and close the window. When you click on a PPT file on a website, you should now be given the option to choose whether to open the file, save it to a designated location, or cancel file access.

Hopefully, some of the tips described here will help to alleviate any past frustrations you may have had with opening PPT and PPTX file extensions.

Top 5 Books for Educating Yourself about Computers

With the increased use of computers and the Internet, educating yourself about computers is a valuable skill to have in the age when you rely on your PC for everything and constantly have to worry about protecting yourself online. The more educated you are on PC technology, networking and the Internet, the better your chances are of saving time and money over the long term.

If you have already been browsing Amazon and other places online for computer books, you have probably found the choices to be overwhelming. Regardless if you are on the beginning level and want to start learning or you have some experience under your belt and want to learn more, here are a few quality computer books which should provide you with an interesting read.

How Computers Work

If you are interested in learning more about how your PC works as a prerequisite to becoming a PC technician or just for your own knowledge, How Computers Work by Ron White is a straightforward and easy read. How Computers Work provide you with a clear explanation of the boot-up process, the role and importance of the microchip, how software works, the concept of data storage, input and output devices, an overview of games and multimedia, how the Internet works, and how printers work.

Instead of using a lot of complex technical jargon, How Computers Work provides you with explanations which are delivered in increments to allow you to process the information sequentially. The illustrations also provide you with a clear understanding of each important component of the computer’s functionality.

Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Computer Basics

If you are just getting started with computers with no prior experience, the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Computer Basics by Michael Miller is a solid and straightforward read. The most recent edition is the fourth edition; it covers the very basics on getting started with computers. The book starts out with clear explanations and overview of desktop and laptop PCs followed by a visual understanding of setting up your first computer.

Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Computer Basics covers the basics of using the Windows operating system including personalization and working with files, folders, and disks. There is also a chapter on upgrading and maintaining your system, using computer software, Internet basics, working with digital media and shortcut key combinations, to name a few areas which are covered. The book also covers exactly what you need to know as a beginner without getting too technical and supports explanations with illustrations and photos.

The C Programming Language

If you want to learn more about programming your own applications The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Ritchie provides a comprehensive approach to learning everything you need to know about C programming. The newest edition helps programmers to stay on top of the final ANSI standard while learning more about optimizing operators for C to build well-structured and efficient computer applications.

In order to successfully navigate the C Programming Language, it helps to have some background in programming. However, the book is very comprehensive and is widely known as K & R and has been the primary way programmers learn C for the last two decades.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Classroom in a Book

The increased use of multimedia has heightened interest for many in terms of being able to edit your own photos. Adobe Photoshop is a popular program for working with images and photos. It is well suited for those who just want to learn how to edit photos and images to the accomplished digital photographers that use their PC consistently for photo editing and imaging.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Classroom in a Book provides a straightforward step-by-step approach to everything you need to know about editing and working with images. There is a chapter that takes you on a tour of the work area to help you get oriented with the program, a comprehensive chapter on making basic photo corrections, working with the selection tool which is a primary tool for working with images, working with image layers, correcting and enhancing digital photographs, working with vector drawings, painting with mixer brush, and much more. Although Adobe programs can be complex, this publication makes working with Photoshop easy to follow with complete step-by-step instructions.

Malware: Fighting Malicious Code

More and more people are connecting to the Internet these days, which makes it a major attraction for criminals with malicious intentions. Many online hackers are tech savvy programmers. Sometimes all it takes is for you to inadvertently click on an infected website link while you are browsing the Internet. Malicious code is everywhere and can also slip by the virus program without your knowledge. If it is severe enough, it can also compromise your PC and personal identity, or destroy your PC altogether.

If you own a PC, the more educated you are on malware and how it works, the better you will be able to combat it. This is what Malware: Fighting Malicious Code is all about. It helps you understand the different types of malware out there and how it functions and presents you with solutions for taking extra precautions to guard your PC against malicious attacks.

These are a few books which are out there to help you educate yourself on different aspects of using a computer. As you get started, there are additional high quality books which will help you keep learning as you go along.

Windows Media Player Alternatives

Windows includes a way to stream media to your PC through the use of Windows Media Player, which is preinstalled with most Windows operating systems. Although Windows Media Player provides some decent capabilities and functionality, there are also other media players available that offer the same functions plus additional features.

If you are not a fan of Windows Media Player or you simply prefer the idea of having a few options, here are a few great alternatives:


If you can never find what you are looking for in your music library, MediaMonkey is a full-featured media player which plays all of your favorite music and organizes it into an easy-to- access library. The library is capable of managing and organizing more than 100,000 music and video files and provides a lookup service for Album Art and tags your audio and video by genre.

You can also take advantage of the playlist feature, which allows you to customize playlists as well as setup MediaMonkey to automatically DJ your latest party. The syncing feature allows you to transfer tracks to your iPhone, iPod or Mp3 player and to listen to your favorite selection in a variety of different formats.

If recording and copying CDs is a common activity for you, you can use the Record and Convert feature which allows you to record CDs to your hard drive by choosing from a variety of included encoders. Once you have finished recording, you can convert the recording to any file format you wish.

MediaMonkey is offered in both a free version and a paid version which provides additional features and encoders for added capability and functionality.


If you have trouble getting files to play on other media players, VLC Media Player is known for being able to play formats that are not compatible with other players. VLC Media Player is an open source application which offers free video playback while providing video recording functions for streaming video.

VLC provides toolbars, which are fully customizable, to allow easy access to the functions you use the most. It also plays audio and video in a wide variety of formats including but not limited to: MP3, DivX, or MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and OGG in addition to VCD, DVD and different streaming protocols. VLC can be used as a server for multicast or unicast streams on a high-bandwidth network in IPv4 or IPv6 and is capable of playing back zipped files as well.

Recent versions of VLC include fixes for HTTP Live Streaming and CDDB, UDP/RTP as well as support for MxPEG files and streams, and splitted RAR files playback.

VLC Media Player is designed to run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and UNIX and is available as a free open source application.


If you are looking for a media player which is an effective music organizer, Zune is worth taking a second look. Zune is more adept at organizing music files according to the artist, genre, album, or playlist than it is for organizing your video library. Zune offers free software for managing and sharing your favorite music and multimedia and allows you to sync your music and videos to your mobile devices.

Zune also provides other cool features which include the Zune Music Pass that provides you with unlimited access to music selections you can stream or download to your mobile device, Xbox, or PC. Also, you get access to Smart DJ, which is like having your own personal DJ that creates playlists of your favorite music selections. You also have different options for obtaining music and videos via rental, purchase, download, or streaming, in addition to receiving recommendations based on past selections.

Although Zune software is free, additional features, such as Zune Music Pass, require a monthly subscription in addition to Xbox LIVE Gold if you want to use streaming with your Xbox device.

These are three of the more popular alternatives to Windows Media Player. As you research, you will find other available options which vary in features and capability.

What Is New in Windows 8?

Not too long ago Microsoft released the beta version of Windows 8 in an effort to provide users with a test drive during development. Within the last few weeks the final preview version of Windows 8 was released with more features than the beta version. The final preview version still will not be the same as the official version to be released this year however; it is worth taking a look to find out more about the new capabilities for Windows 8.

Metro Start Page

When you first boot up Windows 8, you are presented with the Metro start page which is tablet PC friendly and can also be used on a PC desktop. The Metro start page has a host of apps which are presented in the form of tiles that you can click on to open. Once you open an app, typically there is more than one scroll box, and as the system stands now, it does not know which one you want to use. Instead of using the mouse wheel, for now you have to click and drag until the bug is worked out by Microsoft developers.

Each app on the Metro start page will also provide you with at-a-glance information. For example, if you view the email tile, it will tell you how many messages are waiting and identify the sender, or the calendar app will immediate tell you what events you have coming up in the near future.

Microsoft Store Enhanced Capability

To access more apps you can open up the Microsoft Store. Most of the apps are free, however if there is a pay app, you can try before you buy by clicking on free. This installs a light version of the app, so you can try it out. Once you choose the app, it shows up on your Start screen and indicates that it was successfully installed, and then you simply click on the tile to open it up. When you decide you like it, you simply return to the Microsoft Store and click Buy. If you decide you no longer want to use the app, you can uninstall it right from the Start menu by right clicking. This is a lot more convenient than the previous versions of the Windows operating system.

Access to Traditional Windows Desktop

To access the traditional Desktop you simply click on the desktop tile to open up the familiar Windows Desktop, but it does not contain a Start button. In order to access the Start page, you must hit the Windows key on your keyboard or click the Start tile.

New Features in Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer has a new look and allows you to open up the ribbon on the toolbar for added functionality. You can also drag some of the buttons into the Quick toolbar for easy access. The ISO files feature allows you to burn file folders to CD directly from Windows Explorer. You can also copy a second file simultaneously while viewing the progress of copying for both files. If you want better performance, you can pause one process, so the other performs faster.

Enhanced Task Manager

The new Task Manager can be opened by hitting Ctrl Shift Esc. When you click on Details, you can see a lot more information on running processes than in the previous versions of Windows. You can view performance graphs, app history use, and startup processes which can be viewed without typing in msconfig into the Run command prompt.

Dual Monitor Capability

To help you find your way around quicker, Windows 8 final preview provides a feature for use with your desktop PC that allows you to run the Metro page simultaneously with the traditional Windows desktop page using a dual monitor system. Both features also provide a system search which works across the board to help you find what you are looking for.

Multiple PC Functionality

If you have more than one device running Windows 8, you can sync them all together in one tap using the new syncing feature which provides you with your own place in the cloud. You can sync all of your data and multimedia and then access the files from any device equipped with Windows 8, regardless if it is a PC or a mobile device. You can also sync with your favorite social media locations as well.

This is a general overview of some of the new features being offered with the Windows 8 operating system. When you look under the hood in more depth, you will find a host of other new features which make your computing experience easier and more efficient.

Browser Comparison by Safety and Security

Web browsers have become a universal application for today’s PCs and mobile devices. And with new uses for the Internet, web browsers have also become more complicated in order to deliver applications with complex protocols that support modern day applications, such as videos, images, and interactive web programs.

Along with more complex applications, comes additional opportunity for security vulnerabilities. This makes web browsers a magnet for tech savvy criminals to exploit these vulnerabilities and inevitably compromise your PC or mobile device. In this article, we will explore three major web browsers to help you gain a better understanding safety and security levels in each application.

First, it is important to mention that the most recent browser architecture is comprised of both a multi-process and multi-threaded infrastructure. Without having to understand technical jargon, this means the level of capability of the browser to support security barriers and trust zones and allows for browser comparison when it comes to safety and security.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome was first released in 2008 and utilizes the WebKit layout and V8 Java Script engines. Google Chrome’s functionality is delivered via the Chromium interface with some of the components delivered via open source licensing.

  • Sandbox: Google Chrome is multi-process and uses a low integrity token, which increases the capabilities of the sandbox. Sandboxing is the technology which traps any malicious software or files collected during the browsing session. A sandbox will run in an isolated space in the browser, which prevents malicious files from entering your PC. When you close your browser, the sandbox deletes the files which were trapped in the sandbox.
  • Security Updates: In terms of security updates Google does not provide a rigid schedule for releasing updates and security patches. However, the updates tend to be released more frequently than Firefox and Internet Explorer and do not include non-security updates or Flash.
  • Patch Distribution: In terms of patching, the time it takes for a browser vendor to become aware of a vulnerability to reaching a solution is an indication of their commitment to browser security. Google Chrome takes an average of 50 days to produce a security patch once the browser vulnerability is discovered. This typically applies to high impact vulnerabilities instead of other ones that are less severe.
  • Add-Ons: Add-ons are software written by a third party. The software adds different functionality to a browser, such as video streaming, cookie blocking, viewing particular files, and more. Add-Ons add an extra code to the browser which presents more security risks in addition to plugins, which can be silently activated without user intervention. This represents an opportunity for unauthorized code to be installed, which is disguised as an Add-On. Google Chrome places strict limitations on Add-Ons, which will limit what you can do with the browser but makes it more secure.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer offers a user interface framework where tabs operate independently of one another. This allows the browser tab processes to function at low integrity. The low integrity tabs are used for managing independent processes such as downloads and toolbars in addition to browsing and hosting ActiveX controls.

  • Sandbox: Internet Explorer utilizes a multi-process which runs a permissive sandbox. The sandbox allows for the use of ActiveX controls, software exclusive to Internet Explorer. ActiveX comes preinstalled in Windows operating systems and is a small application which enhances your browsing experience. For many sites accessed in Internet Explorer, ActiveX controls are necessary for accessing and viewing components on a website. If the sandbox permits Active X, it may not be able to block other malicious files and activities. This places the sandbox technology in Internet Explorer at a medium security level.
  • Security Updates: According to Microsoft Security Bulletin, the Internet Explorer team operates on a two month cycle for security updates splitting high impact vulnerabilities that directly affect the browser and pose a threat to your PC with low impact advisories related to Internet Explorer. The release of updates is more related to patch distribution, rather than something that is non-security and directly related to the browser.
  • Patch Distribution: Internet Explorer takes an average of just over 200 days to produce a security patch once a browser vulnerability is discovered. It is significantly slower than Google Chrome. This means that the browser’s susceptibility to an attack is much greater until a security patch is finally released.
  • Add-Ons: The primary method for Add-On functionality in Internet Explorer is via ActiveX controls we described above. IE also offers an extended number of ways to enhance functionality through the use of browser and content extensions. These add functionality to the menu and the toolbar in IE. In most cases, installation requires user interaction, but plugins can be activated silently without user interaction. Due to the many extensions that enhance the functionality this presents more opportunity for hacker exploits.


Firefox uses a single-process medium integrity browser which contains the entire browsing session. Firefox plugins are hosted out of process and run independently of one another and at medium integrity. For this reason, a browser crash causes total failure of the browser itself and all of the plugin processes.

  • Sandbox: Since Firefox deploys a single process with medium integrity, this obliterates the sandbox technology due to browsing components operating separately from one another. In order to improve sandbox security, it is necessary to install a third party sandbox application if you desire to tighten up security in this area.
  • Security Updates: The Firefox team offers no set pattern for releasing security updates. When you use Firefox, you will experience periods where there are multiple updates, but then a period of time will pass before there are additional ones. Overall, the release of security updates is much less than those released by Google and Microsoft.
  • Patch Distribution: In terms of developing a security patch following the discovery of security vulnerability, the Firefox team falls in between the patch release time of Chrome and IE with a release time of 152 days.
  • Add-Ons: Firefox offers multiple methods for extending browser capability and functionality including themes, extensions, and plugins. Extensions extend existing browser functionality where plugins introduce new browser behavior. Plugins also extend the code which is native to the browser. Plugins are capable of accessing any files on your PC in addition to installing software and establishing network connections. This is typical of malicious software behavior, which makes plugins a security risk. Installation of plugins typically originates from the official Mozilla website and passes through a review process prior to installation, but there is always a chance for risk.

So, in terms of sandboxing Google Chrome and Internet Explorer are ahead of Mozilla Firefox. When it comes to security updates, all three browsers are almost equal since they all vary. When considering patch release speed, Internet Explorer is the worst with Firefox and Chrome releasing security patches faster. When you consider Add-On functionality, Chrome is the most secure with Internet Explorer coming in second, and Firefox third.

Microsoft Office Alternatives to Open DOCX, XLSX Files

Microsoft Office is a common word processing application for creating documents in a variety of different formats. For this reason, many people who use Microsoft Office also assume everyone else does, too.

If you do not have Microsoft Office installed on your PC or you are using an older version of Office, perhaps you have run across a problem with opening .docx or .xlsx files at one point or another. These file format versions originate from the newer versions of Microsoft Office. Additionally, you do not have to install Microsoft Office or purchase a new version in order to view documents in .docx and .xlsx format. Here are a few Microsoft Office alternatives to view documents in this type of format:

Compatibility Pack for Word

First, if you already have an older version of Microsoft Office installed and you are trying to open a document in .docx or .xlsx, you can obtain the Compatibility Pack for Word from the Microsoft Office website. The program is free to download and will help you easily open documents from Office 2007 and higher if you have an older version of Microsoft Office.


OpenOffice is an open source office suite which contains just about all of the capabilities of Microsoft Office without the exorbitant price tag. OpenOffice is a free program and works across multiple operating systems. The program is capable of opening documents in a broad range of different formats including .docx and .xlsx.

Since OpenOffice is a complete office suite it is important to check the space on your hard drive prior to downloading from It also takes a little time to download depending upon your system, but waiting is well worth it. Once you have it installed, you have access to a full suite of office applications including an alternative to PowerPoint, Excel, and other applications.

TextMaker and PlanMaker

Other free tools, which are effective alternatives to open .docx and .xlsx documents, are TextMaker and PlanMaker, which are free viewers created by the developers of SoftMaker. TextMaker Viewer is capable of opening both .doc and .docx files in addition to a variety of file formats such as .rtf, .html, .txt, .odt, and many more.

PlanMaker Viewer is capable of opening workbooks and spreadsheets created in Microsoft Excel. PlanMaker also opens .xls, .xlt, .csv, .sdc, and .rtf formats plus many more. The program also allows you to view files on your PC screen and create files in PDF, which is a universal viewing format.

TextMaker and PlanMaker are created by SoftMaker that is a complete suite of office applications offered in a free trial version with a paid version to follow. TextMaker and PlanMaker are both free to download from the SoftMaker website.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a free application provided by Google and allows you to open files in both .docx and .xlsx in addition to collaborating with others on documents using an Internet connection. It is also possible to work on the documents without Internet access and you can use the included word processor to convert a broad range of file formats.

Google Docs support both .doc and .docx formats in addition to Open Office (.odt), .rtf, .html, and zip files. In addition to opening .xlsx files Google Docs will also support .csv, .txt, .xls, and .ods formats.

Office Live

Office Live is Microsoft’s version of Google Docs and is commonly called Microsoft Office Web Apps. You can access Office Live by logging in with a Windows Live ID. If you already have an ID, then you have access to Office Live or you can create a Windows Live ID by accessing the Microsoft SkyDrive web page.

Office Live will help you open .docx and .xlsx files in addition to a broad range of other formats. You can also edit and share documents you create with the program, but with fewer features than the desktop version of Microsoft Office.

These are only 5 alternatives to Microsoft Office and there are many more programs online that you can use to open .docx and .xlsx formats.