Tips & tricks

Here, I collect a few tips and tricks which I think should be common knowledge due to how useful they are.

Windows: Convert any video, music or image file to standard formats

You may already have some way of doing this, but I certainly have never found an easier method. It's extremely useful for a lot of things, and sometimes even causes a smaller file size without any loss of quality. You can even do things such as quickly extracting the sound only from a video file, producing an MP3 or FLAC from it.
  1. Download ffmpeg for Windows. This is a command-line program that does all of the actual work, and it supports tons of formats.
  2. Ignore all files except for ffmpeg.exe inside the "bin" directory and extract it to C:\Program Files\ffmpeg\ffmpeg.exe. If you don't use that path, you need to edit the file in the next step.
  3. Download and run this .REG file. All it does is adds six keys to your Windows Registry so that you may right-click any suitable file and select actions such as "Convert to AVI" (or MP3/FLAC/WAV/JPEG/PNG).
  4. Now you can, for instance, right-click any weird video clip and select "Convert to AVI" and it will start producing a file in the same directory. You can even select multiple ones and right-click one of them, and it will run all the jobs at the same time. (If you select more than 15 files at once, the context menu items won't show up for some reason. This is Windows' doing.)
To "uninstall" this, download and run this other .REG file. It simply removes the keys. Naturally, you can easily make changes to these .REG files in a text editor if you want want more or fewer options. The format should be pretty obvious.

Some notes

  • If the first video conversion occasionally results in a broken file, it appears to be possible to convert that file once more to fix it. I have myself done this successfully in the past.
  • Sometimes, the resulting file can be bigger. The point of all this is not to make the files smaller, but to increase compatibility for playback and video editing and whatnot. Metadata may be lost as well (but don't count on it).

Windows: Easily view or delete "all" metadata from all sorts of image/video files

A lot of software doesn't respect you and keeps adding privacy-invasive "metadata" into your files without telling you. This can include actual GPS coordinates, internal paths (often including your OS username), full lists of used video clip files (in the case of Premiere Pro) and much more nasty shit like that. This solution allows you to easily get rid of that irrelevant garbage before you send out your images or videos into the world.
  1. Download ExifTool for Windows. This is a command-line program that does all of the actual work, and just like ffmpeg, it supports tons of formats.
  2. The ZIP archive only contains one single file. Put it in C:\Program Files\exiftool. If you don't use that path, you need to edit the file in the next step.
  3. Download and run this .REG file. All it does is adds two keys in your Windows Registry so that you may right-click any file and select one of two options: "View all metadata for" and "Remove all metadata for".
  4. The first option dumps the metadata found inside the file. The second removes it all. You can select up to 15 different files at once.
To "uninstall" this, download and run this other .REG file. It simply removes the keys.

Some notes

  • In spite of the program's name, this is not just for the ancient "Exif" data format (it just started out that way), but all sorts of metadata.
  • In the output, it will call your videos "images" only for compatibility reasons with software that automatically parse the output and expect it to use that phrase. Keep that in mind; it's not broken.
  • Some metadata may be left intact because it is necessary for the file to properly function. Also, the standard "created at" and "last modified" stuff is not modified as they are part of the file system rather than the files themselves.
  • According to the (maybe underselling) author, even this tool cannot be relied upon to delete all metadata other than for JPEG images. However, I certainly don't know of a better or more complete public and free tool for doing this. I guess you should carefully inspect what is left in the file before you use it for sensitive purposes.

Any Web browser: Edit any Web page in any browser

Few people seem to know about this. The only thing you need to do is to load up any Web page and paste the following JavaScript snippet in the address field of (almost) any browser and press Enter. This will enter "edit mode" and allow you to change, insert or delete both text and visual elements, and it will look just as if it had rendered that way. This is in contrast to manipulating an actual screenshot later, which is very difficult in most cases.
(Naturally, this doesn't actually modify anything on the server. You are just changing your local copy.)
javascript:document.body.contentEditable='true'; document.designMode='on'; void 0
To turn off the mode, change the "on" to "off" and press Enter again. Any "edit mode" visuals will now go away while preserving your changes. You can easily turn these into bookmarks as well.
This should prove beyond any doubt that screenshots are completely worthless for "proof". Obviously, the possibilities for abuse are endless. Still, it does have legitimate/harmless uses for jokes and whatnot.
The above no longer works in "modern browsers" due to security concerns. Instead, assuming Firefox or compatible, you can right-click some piece of text on a page and select "Inspect Element", then edit the text in the "Inspector" and press Enter.

Windows: Easily rename many files at once

If you have many related files (such as JPEG images) in one folder, and you want some consistency (or just unique names), you don't need to use any extra software to rename them. Simply select all, then rename one of them to anything, such as "beach". Now, all the files will be renamed into "beach (1).jpg", "beach (2).jpg" and so on. This hidden feature has saved me tons of time since I learned about it.

Now what?

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Published 2012-08-20. Last touched 2015-11-14.