Blog Archives

Start Your Voicemail Messages Without a Gasp [Voicemail]

If you’ve noticed how many people have voicemail messages that sound like they’re gasping for air when they record them, this simple trick from reader Gregor Samosa will help you leave smooth radio-announcer-quality messages. More »

MEETorDIE Helps You Estimate How Much Money Your Meetings Are Wasting [Meetings]

MEETorDIE takes a humorous approach to a serious issue—how much money is wasted by large staff meetings.

It's safe to argue that many times meetings aren't the most efficient way to spend the time—and the payroll!—of the people involved but unless you have access to HR records you have no way to even estimate just how much payroll is being wasted. MEETorDIE calculates the amount of payroll wasted based on industry wide averages, the number of the people in the meeting, and the type of employee they are.

Obviously it’s just an estimate but it’s a great way to get people thinking about whether or not a meeting is “worth it” and you might even be able to use it as an interesting talking point with your boss about cutting back on meetings that pull your team away from more productive work.

Have a neat tool for visualizing data? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Set an Effective Out-of-Office Message to Reduce Workload [Communication]

It’s easy to leave a short and ineffective out-of-office message, especially when you’re leaving it on the eve of a vacation or a conference you’re excited to attend. Doing so however, just ensures more work upon your return.

Photo by makelessnoise.

Over at Ian’s Messy Desk, Ian outlines how to create a good out-of-office message. First, what does a terrible out-of-office message sound like? At the worst end of things the message simply tells the caller that you’re not there which gives them nothing to work with except that you’re unavailable to help them or answer their questions. Ian suggests including:

1. Dates of your absence. Let the contact know when you are out of the office. It helps them decide what their next step is going to be; whether to wait for your return or to direct their request elsewhere.
2. Reason for absence. I like to let my contacts know whether I am on a business trip or vacation. A business trip means I am connected to the office in some way and might be able to respond to a message. If I’m on vacation, I’m out of contact range.
3. Who to contact in your absence. I try and leave contact information for alternate contacts when I am out of the office; a minimum of one up to as many as are needed.

The emphasis on the last entry is ours. Most of the phone calls you receive while you’re out of the office will be for matters that will need to be resolved while you are gone; if you leave proper contact information for the people who would most likely be able to resolve issues that crop up while you’re gone, you’re all the more likely to return to the office with those things done and taken care of. Leaving an ineffective message creates a mountain of work for you to wade through when you return.

For more tips on leaving an effective message check out the full article at the link below. Have a tip or trick for leaving a good out-of-office message or any other aspect of preparing to be away from work? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Most Popular DIY Projects of 2009 [Best Of 2009]

We love DIY projects here at Lifehacker. Whether we’re building computers, backyard projects, or turning office supplies into artillery, we’re always tinkering. Today we’re taking a peek at the most popular DIY projects of 2009.

Create Your Own Sun Jar: Lifehacker Edition

Inspired by a tutorial we posted last year, we decided to make our own DIY sun jars. The trendy summer time lighting accessory retails for $30+ but we were able to make ours for around $10 each. The sun jars proved to be our most popular non-computer DIY of the entire year and readers shared their own creations with us.

The First-Timer’s Guide to Building a Computer from Scratch

Building your own computer is a great way to get exactly what you want, the way you want it, without being constrained by the limits and high-prices of mass produced computers. We showed you how to build a computer from start to finish and have fun doing it.

Turn a Sharpie into a Liquid Fueled Rocket

What’s standing between you and some office mayhem? Certainly not a lack of Sharpie markers and keyboard dusting spray. Combine the two with this fun DIY project and you’ve got one of the most awesome pieces of office-machinery we’ve ever featured.

Properly Erase Your Physical Media

You need to be properly erasing your physical media: all the time, every time. Our guide will show you how to get the job done and done right whether you use software to scrub your disks or you send them to the great data mine in the sky with a 21-gun salute.

Turn an Old Laptop into a Wall-Mounted Computer

Why settle for a digital picture frame when, in the same wall space, you could mount an entirely functional computer/slideshow player/TV tuner? One Lifehacker reader turned an old laptop into a super-charged digital frame.

$8 DIY Aluminum Laptop Stand

We’ve always been keen on DIY laptop stands, but reader Aaron Kravitz—inspired by an attractive $50 stand—went above and beyond, creating one of the most attractive DIY laptop stands we've featured to date.

Build an IKEA NAS On the Cheap

If the Hive Five on best home server software got you excited about setting up a home server but you’re not keen on another unsightly PC in your home, check out this DIY IKEA NAS.

Build a DIY Portable Air Conditioner

We’ve shown you how to make an air conditioner (even for as low as $30), but what if you wanted something you can put in your car and take with you? While it’s no substitute for a fully-charged and factory-fresh AC system, it’ll keep you cool.

Turn a Bookshelf into a Secret Passage

Who hasn’t dreamed of having a mystery-story-style secret passageway? While a trick bookshelf is pretty awesome in itself, this secret passage hides a home office with clever style. One industrious Lifehacker reader and his girlfriend had grown tired of seeing their office from their living space, so they hid it behind a wall of books.

Wire Your House with Ethernet Cable

You’ve ripped a movie on your laptop, and now want it on that fancy new home theater PC next to your TV. If you’ve got the time, wiring your house with Cat-5e cable could make transfer times a distant memory.

Rain Gutters as Cable Management Tools

We’re all about creative cable management here at Lifehacker, so we were instantly drawn to reader Seandavid010‘s rain-gutter cable management setup. He was awesome enough to send detailed photos and step by step instructions to help other readers recreate his setup.

Build Your Own DTV Antenna

The lights went out on analog television this year and we were there with a guide to help you build a great DIY antenna for boosting your reception and getting that crisp digital picture you crave.

DIY Laptop Rack Hack Turns Your Monitor into an iMac

Lifehacker reader Matt Lumpkin saw our monitor stand from door stoppers post and thought we might like his laptop rack hack as another space-saving desktop solution for laptop-lovers. He was right.

Build Your Own Pizza Oven

Suppose you were inspired by the cheap DIY home pizza oven—but weren't so sure your home insurance would cover oven modifications. It's time to build a safer, more eye-pleasing oven, and we've got a thorough guide.

Crack a Master Combination Padlock Redux

Two years ago we highlighted how to crack a Master combination padlock for those of you who may have lost the combination to your bulletproof lock; now designer Mark Campos has turned the tried-and-true instructions into an easier-to-follow visual guide.

DIY Invisible Floating Bookshelves

We’ve covered the invisible floating bookshelf once or twice before, but if you liked the idea but weren’t keen on ruining a book in the process, weblog May December Home’s got you covered.

DIY Inverted Bookshelf

Instead of storing your books upright on top of the shelf, the inverted bookshelf holds all of your books in place using elastic webbing so you can hang them below the shelf—all the while allowing you to still take them out and put them back on as needed.

Build an Under-the-Cabinet Kitchen PC from an Old Laptop

Inspired by our guide to giving an old laptop new life with cheap or free projects, Lifehacker reader Brian turned his aging Dell laptop into an incredible under-the-cabinet kitchen PC.

Turn Storage Containers into Self Watering Tomato Planters

If you’d like to have delicious home-grown tomatoes but lack a garden to grow them in, you’ll definitely want to check out this ingenious and inexpensive self-watering system.

Deter Thieves by Uglifying Your Camera

A few years ago, blogger Jimmie Rodgers’s camera was stolen while volunteering in an impoverished Brazilian community, so he did what any sane person would do: He bought a new camera and made it ugly. With his uglified camera, Rodgers was able to snap pictures freely during the rest of his trip without worrying too much that his ostensibly crappy camera would end up stolen.

DIY TV or Monitor Stand from Door Stoppers

Nothing adds space to a desk or home theater setup like a simple monitor or TV stand, and weblog IKEA Hacker details how to build your own stand on-the-cheap with a few inexpensive items from IKEA.

Repurpose Your Analog Television

You don’t need to run out and buy a new TV because of the DTV switchover. If you did anyways, Make Magazine has put together quite a guide to giving old TVs new life.

Use Ping-Pong Balls to Create Diffused Party Lights

If you need some cheap and novel ambient lighting for your next party, you’re only a box of ping-pong balls and a string of lights away from solving your lighting worries.

Build a Custom-Made BoxeeBox

DeviceGuru blogger Rick Lehrbaum, inspired by the cheaper set-top boxes, made his own higher-powered “BoxeeBox” for the free, open-source media center. He posted all the parts, the how-to details, and lots of pictures.

Build a Sturdy Cardboard Laptop Stand

You already shelled out your hard earned cash for a swanky laptop, why drop more cash on an overpriced laptop stand? Cardboard alone can do the trick, as detailed in this step-by-step tutorial.

Install Snow Leopard on Your Hackintosh PC, No Hacking Required

Earlier this year we put together a wildly popular guide to building a Hackintosh with Snow Leopard, start to finish, and then followed it up with an even easier guide to install Snow Leopard on your Hackintosh PC, no hacking required. Computers + DIY is all sorts of geeky fun waiting to happen.

Which Is Your Favorite Lifehacker DIY Project of 2009?(polls)

Have a favorite DIY from 2009 that wasn’t highlighted here? Sound off in the comments with a link to your favorite project. Want to see more popular DIY guides courtesy of the ghost of Lifehacker past? Check out our huge DIY guide roundup from 2008.

Office 2010 Professional Beta Available for Download [Downloads]

Windows: Wanna give Office 2010’s online document syncing, Windows 7 taskbar integration, and killer quick steps a go? Microsoft has thrown open the doors on a free beta of Office 2010 Professional—for those who can wait out the download.

As with the Windows 7 beta and most Microsoft offerings, this one requires grabbing a license key, registering or signing in with a Windows Live/Passport account, and fighting it out with the many others trying to grab the download from the servers. The download is 684 MB, and Microsoft is suggesting users uninstall previous versions of Office before downloading—as well as asking that you "don't test Office Professional Plus 2010 Beta on your primary home or business PC."

Okay, sure thing, Redmond. Let us know if you’ve grabbed the beta, or found any helpful mirror links, in the comments. Office 2010 Professional beta is a free download for Windows XP SP3 and later systems.

OfficeTab Adds Tabs to Microsoft Office [Downloads]

Windows only: Microsoft Office plug-in OfficeTab adds tabbed document support to Excel, Word, and PowerPoint—one can only wonder why Microsoft doesn't include this feature by default.

Once you’ve installed OfficeTab, you can head into the settings panel, where you can enable or disable tabbed support in each application, move the tabs to the side or bottom, and change the appearance of the tabs with a number of styles to choose from. You can right-click the tab bar to add a new document tab, and each time you open a document it will be added to a new tab automatically.

OfficeTab is a free download for Windows only, and while it was created by a Chinese programmer, the download itself contains an English version. Readers should note that on our test machine, at least, we got a Visual Studio setup prompt every time we opened an Office application after setting up this plug-in—but your mileage may vary.

Test Office 2010 Intensively, Get it Free [Microsoft Office]

Microsoft is looking for volunteers to try out a pre-release copy of Office 2010—which drops as a Technical Preview next month—on a "loaner laptop," with daily home and office use, and with regular reports back and, potentially, being used in marketing or press opportunities. Do all that as part of Office 2010 Real Life Stories, and you’ll get a free full copy, unlimited technical support and training, and maybe a shot at net legend (or notoriety). Would you guinea pig your take on Office 2010 for a free copy? [via Ars Technica]

Register Now to Try Microsoft Office 2010 Technical Preview [Beta Beat]

If you live and breathe Microsoft Office for your job, you might be interested in signing up for Microsoft’s Office 2010 Technical Preview. Microsoft is planning to release the preview at the beginning of July, but unlike Windows 7 Beta and RC, the Office 2010 Technical Preview is by invitation only. Hit up the link below if you’re interested in registering for the preview (registering doesn’t guarantee you’ll get in), and while you’re there check out the silly Office 2010 trailer. [Office 2010 via Download Squad]

TopAlt EnableDisable Makes Office Add-On Management a Snap [Downloads]

Windows: There are a lot of great add-ons for Microsoft’s premier productivity product, but there’s no central spot to turn them on or off. TopAlt EnableDisable controls Microsoft Office add-ons with simple check-boxes.

In a way, that’s all there is to it. Install the program, load it up, and you’ll see all the Office programs you’ve installed with plug-ins active on separate tabs. My freshly-installed Office copy doesn’t have a lot going on in the screenshot, but most any well-used copy will have Access, Excel, Outlook, and Word options to dig through.

EnableDisable shows you what’s being loaded into your programs at startup or on-demand, and offers a description if one’s embedded in the add-on. It catches both third-party plug-ins and Microsoft’s own functionality extenders. The Get More Add-ins link takes you, not surprisingly, to‘s products, but the program itself does what it promises in a seemingly safe way. TopAlt EnableDisable is a free download for Windows systems only. 3.1’s Usability Tweaks [Downloads]

Windows/Mac/Linux: It hit the servers two days ago, but 3.1 is now in official release. The open-source office suite focused on anti-aliased drawing and usability tweaks for this release, which we’ve quickly previewed below.

Anti-aliased rendering for Draw (and charts): That should mean the world for those sick of seeing glaringly computer-rendered edges and intersections in their illustrations, along with the graphs and charts plugged into spreadsheets and text documents. Hard to visualize in a screenshot, but this one’s been zoomed in, and you can see the softer rendering around the circles.

Eye-friendly highlighting: No more of the Unix-y reverse-color highlighting; 3.1 introduces a softer, off-text-color highlight depending on what color you’re typing in.

Zoom slider for spreadsheets: It was a welcome addition to the Writer tool in 3.0, and now spreadsheets gets a slider bar in the lower-right corner to quickly zoom in and out on documents, rather than spend angry seconds pecking around the View->Zoom menu.

Hot hints for formulas: Not sure if this is entirely new, but the team says they've made it easier to keep your context variables highlighted while receiving hints on how to use formulas in Calc. We know, we know—real engineers and math types can't possibly get by with Calc's formula support, so don't bother telling us so in the comments.

Comments become conversational: If you leave a note on a co-worker’s or collaborator’s document, and then you or someone else want to append to it directly to carry on a conversation, it’s now possible. Just right-click on the note in the margin and hit “Reply.”

Those are just a few of the 3.1 changes we thought the average user might appreciate, but there are more technical and core-based upgrades—like spreadsheet performance, sorting defaults, and built-in document locking—detailed at's release notes. is a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. Thanks Mitchell!

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