Google has announced that it is planning to wind down its Labs project as the company aims to its streamline product portfolio and pay more attention on development efforts. The Google Labs project is a platform for all the early stage product prototypes and allows end users to try out without any guarantees of their future existence.

Google's plan to stop Google Labs has already sparked debate whether the Giant Internet company has done the right thing. If we consider the fact that Google has always touted its policy of introducing new products and allowing the users lay their hands on them.

It should be noted that Google Labs was often touted as as the playground for its curious users. The Labs also served as incubator for some of the popular Google products such as Google Maps, Google Readers and Google Groups.

There are more than 50 experimental products listed under Google Labs. When Google Labs disappear, some will be included into existing products. However, there's no comments on which of the products will disappear and which ones will not. Moreover, correct date for shutting down Google Labs has not been announced.

The company added that the most of the Android apps on the Labs will be transferred to the Android Market. Google promises that its product-specific Labs sites, like Gmail Labs, Google Maps Labs and Search Experiments are not going to be affected.

If you've recently made the move from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7, one big change you've probably noticed is the way the operating system displays icons in its taskbar (the row along the bottom of the screen).

Specifically, it shows icons only, without any text labels identifying what they are. This screenshot is what you typically see:

Although some icons are pretty self-explanatory (like those for Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word, etc.), I like to have the accompanying labels--at least for programs that are currently running. Fortunately, it's an easy matter to tweak this option in Windows 7. Here's how:

Right-click an open area of the taskbar, then choose Properties.
In the Taskbar tab, find the Taskbar buttons pull-down menu.
Choose Combine when taskbar is full or Never combine, then click OK.
The first option, which is what I use, keeps the text labels visible until the taskbar gets so crowded as to make that impractical, at which point Windows will ditch the labels and merge multiple instances of running program (like, say, a bunch of Firefox windows) onto a single taskbar icon.

Here's an "after" shot so you can see the taskbar with text labels:

Password-Protect a Folder in Windows 7
Reader Ash wants to know if there's a way to password-protect individual folders in Windows 7:

"I have a PC and I am the main user of it 95 percent of the time. As such, I don't have it request a password from me when it boots, and haven't setup any user accounts. Occasionally, other people will use this PC, but there are a few documents and personal files I'd like to keep hidden with a password."

Seems logical to me. Alas, Windows lacks any kind of file- or folder-specific protections. You said you wanted to accomplish this without third-party software, but I'm afraid that's the only real option. (With multiple user accounts, it's possible to prevent selected users from accessing designated folders--but that's a hassle to set up. Besides, you said yourself you don't have multiple accounts.)

If you don't want to spend any money, consider going the zip route. Most zip managers, including popular freebie 7-Zip, give you the option to password-protect any zipped files and folders. Yes, you have to jump through the hoops of compressing and decompressing folders, but perhaps that's not a big deal for stuff you access infrequently.

No good? Then drop a few bucks on a utility like Folder Lock, which is designed solely for the purpose of, well, locking folders. It's a little pricey at $40, so you might also want to check out Iobit's similar Protected Folder, which costs half as much.

Of course, all these options overlook one of my favorite methods: misdirection. You could create a folder with the world's most boring name--Widget Sales Projections 2007, for example--and nestle it a few folders deep where no one would ever find it. For someone in your situation, with a computer that's used by you 95 percent of the time, that might be the simplest and most effective solution.

Compress Files in Windows
Need to send someone a big batch of files? Don't attach one after another after another to your e-mail. Instead, compress the files into one smaller, easier-to-manage file. In other words, zip them.

The Zip file format has long been used to compress and archive data. Suppose you have, say, 50 Word documents that have a combined size of 5MB. By zipping them, you end up with a single file that's much smaller--maybe 1MB or even 500KB. Imagine stuffing all your clothes into a tiny, lightweight suitcase--that's what compression does. Even better, when you open the suitcase, everything comes out wrinkle-free.

If you're already using a utility like PKZip or WinZip to compress and decompress files, there's little point in changing. But did you know Windows has zip capabilities built right in? Here's how to use them on the fly, using the aforementioned e-mail as an example:

Compose your e-mail message, then click Attach File (or whatever is your mail client's equivalent).
Using the file selector that appears, find the files you want to attach. (They all need to be in the same folder.)
Select all the files you want to zip. (To select multiple files at a time, hold down the Ctrl key while clicking each one in turn.)
Right-click any of the selected files, then choose Send to, Compressed (zipped) folder.
Windows will quickly compress the files and create a new, zipped file that's immediately ready to be renamed (if necessary--if not, just press Enter).
Attach your newly created Zip file to the e-mail.
That's all there is to it!

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Work Your Windows Key

Quickly view your system specs: Press Windows-Pause to bring up the System Info window. This keyboard shortcut can be especially handy if you're troubleshooting a PC and need to pull up the system's specs in a hurry.

Launch taskbar apps: Put your most commonly used appli cations in the taskbar, and you'll use your mouse a lot less. Pressing Windows plus any number key will launch the program in the corresponding taskbar slot (so Windows-1 will open Windows Explorer, Windows-2 will open the app positioned to the right of Explorer, and so on).

Press Windows-P to switch display modes when you attach a peripheral. Ditch the Displays Control Panel: To switch display modes instantly when you plug in a projector or dock your laptop to an external display, press Windows-P.

Run apps from anywhere: You can launch applications and set parameters from your keyboard, without having to waste time digging through the Start menu to find the one you want to use. Press Windows-R to bring up the Run dialog box.

Taskbar Techniques

Restore your Quick Launch bar: Windows 7 got rid of the Quick Launch bar, but bringing Quick Launch back is fairly easy. Right-click the taskbar and uncheck Lock the taskbar; then right-click the taskbar again and choose New toolbar. Type %appdata%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch into the file path, and then click the arrow button on the right to navigate to that folder. Quick Launch will be back in action.

Clean up your system tray: Your system tray probably contains lots of icons that you rarely use. Instead of clicking the arrow to expand the system tray every time you need access to its contents, just drag the icons you use most often from the expanded tray to the minimized tray area on the taskbar. That way, you can click them immediately instead of having to expand the tray and root around for the icon you need.

Drag and drop to your taskbar apps: A taskbar icon's behavior depends on which modifier keys you hold down as you click it. Hold down Shift while you click an app's icon to open a new instance of the app. Hold down Ctrl-Shift while clicking the app's icon to open the program as an administrator. Drag a file from your desktop (or from an open window) over an app's icon on the taskbar to pin the icon to the app's jump list, or hold down Ctrl to open the file with that program.

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