Open any for­mat on your PC, phone & tablet

& ON ANY DE­VICE FILE CON­VER­SION SPECIA SPE­CIAL L IS­SUE

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Hav­ing the wrong file type shouldn’t stop you open­ing pho­tos, videos and doc­u­ments. Ed­ward Munn re­veals the best tools for con­vert­ing files so you can work in any for­mat on any de­vice

PCs, smart­phones and tablets are equipped to open and edit all man­ner of files, from AAC to ZIP. From time to time, how­ever, you may find that you can’t open a file that you’ve trans­ferred from one de­vice to another or re­ceived from some­one else.

If a friend sends you a RAW im­age file, for ex­am­ple, you may strug­gle to open it if you don’t have spe­cial­ist soft­ware. Sim­i­larly, if you trans­fer a video that uses Ap­ple’s M4V for­mat to your An­droid phone, you prob­a­bly won’t be able to play it. In this fea­ture, we show you how to con­vert prob­lem­atic files quickly on any de­vice so you can con­tinue to use them wher­ever you are.

We also show you how to per­form con­ver­sions that you might not have known were pos­si­ble, such as trans­form­ing printed pho­tos and doc­u­ments into dig­i­tal files that you can edit, and ex­tract­ing the au­dio from videos so you can lis­ten to songs us­ing your favourite mu­sic player.

If that’s not enough con­ver­sion for you, turn to our Web User Master­class on page 64, where we look at the best tools for con­vert­ing and edit­ing PDF doc­u­ments.

Con­vert any im­age file to any for­mat

It’s frus­trat­ing when you re­ceive a file from some­one in an un­usual for­mat that you can’t open on your PC. The quick­est way around this is to con­vert the trou­ble­some file to a dif­fer­ent for­mat us­ing a web tool such as Batch­photo Es­presso ( batch­photo.com/es­presso). This ex­cel­lent free app lets you con­vert JPEG, TIF, PNG, BMP, GIF, JP2, PICT and PCX files to most pop­u­lar for­mats and it in­cludes tools that help you crop or ro­tate the im­age and ap­ply a range of ef­fects and other use­ful ad­just­ments.

If you’d rather con­vert your files off­line, or you have a file in a for­mat that Batch­photo Es­presso doesn’t sup­port, try the bril­liant Xn­con­vert ( bit.ly/ xn­con­vert430). It recog­nises more than 500 im­age for­mats, in­clud­ing RAW files from DSLR cam­eras, and can con­vert them to a choice of 70 file types. It’s avail­able as a por­ta­ble pro­gram, so you don’t have to in­stall it on your PC, and of­fers more than 80 op­er­a­tions dur­ing the con­ver­sion process, in­clud­ing trans­for­ma­tions, ad­just­ments and ef­fects. See our Mini Work­shop be­low to find out how to use Xn­con­vert.

If you have an im­age that you can’t open on your An­droid phone or tablet, try Im­age Con­verter ( bit.ly/im­age430). It’s sup­ported by ads but it can con­vert be­tween a wide range of for­mats and even lets you re­size, crop and ro­tate your files in bulk.

Scan and en­hance old prints with your phone

Google’s Pho­to­scan app for An­droid ( bit.ly/pho­to­scana430) and IOS ( bit.ly/ pho­to­scani430) makes it quicker and eas­ier than ever to give your old prints a new lease of life by con­vert­ing them into ed­itable, dig­i­tal ver­sions. In­stall the app, open it and then sim­ply point your phone’s cam­era at a photo and tap the shut­ter but­ton. The app in­structs you to move your de­vice be­tween four dots on the screen (with­out tilt­ing it) so it can cap­ture mul­ti­ple shots to re­move any glare. You can’t scan mul­ti­ple images in a sin­gle shot with Pho­to­scan as you can in Pho­to­myne ( pho­to­myne.com), but it pro­duces im­pres­sively high-qual­ity dig­i­tal copies of your snaps.

To speed up the process, the app crops your scans au­to­mat­i­cally (al­though you can ad­just this man­u­ally), cor­rects per­spec­tive and en­hances the colours and con­trast lev­els. You can turn the glare-re­moval tool off if you’re less wor­ried about qual­ity. We achieved the best re­sults by ro­tat­ing our phone to match the ori­en­ta­tion of the photo we were scan­ning, and us­ing nat­u­ral light in­stead of the flash. Once you’ve fin­ished scan­ning, tap Save All, which saves the scans to your de­vice and also up­loads copies to Google Pho­tos, where you can use the built-in edit­ing tools to tweak them fur­ther.

Mi­crosoft’s Of­fice­lens (see page 42) is pri­mar­ily a doc­u­ment scan­ner, but it also has a ba­sic photo mode, which is handy if you pre­fer to keep your scans in Onedrive rather than Google Pho­tos.

Down­size pho­tos quickly for faster up­loads

Up­load­ing lots of high-res­o­lu­tion pho­tos to the web can be te­dious if you have a slow in­ter­net con­nec­tion. Bulk Re­size ( bulkre­sizepho­tos.com) makes the job much less painful by let­ting you re­duce the size of mul­ti­ple images at once, and you don’t even have to in­stall any soft­ware. “But hang on,” you might be think­ing, “won’t I have to up­load all my

images to the web­site to re­size them?”. Un­be­liev­ably, you won’t. The web app per­forms all the con­ver­sions on your PC, mak­ing the process as fast as pos­si­ble. Spec­ify the level of re­duc­tion by en­ter­ing a per­cent­age, the length of the long­est side or an ex­act size into the sim­ple in­ter­face. Click the Pro op­tions if you also want to choose the qual­ity of the im­age or con­vert your files to PNG or Webp for­mat. If you’re up­load­ing the pic­tures to your own web­site and you want to pro­tect them with a wa­ter­mark, Bulk Re­size lets you do this too.

Com­press images with­out los­ing qual­ity

You may want to com­press some pho­tos to send in an email, for ex­am­ple, with­out com­pro­mis­ing their size or qual­ity. Sev­eral on­line tools can do this, in­clud­ing the ex­cel­lent TINYJPG ( tinyjpg .com), which, de­spite its name, can han­dle PNG files as well as JPEGS. Drop up to 20 images onto the site (ob­serv­ing the size limit of 5MB per file), and it in­tel­li­gently re­duces the file size and shows you how much space you’ve saved. Al­ter­na­tively, try Op­ti­mizilla ( op­ti­mizilla.com), a sim­i­lar site that also han­dles up to 20 files in both for­mats. Note that you have to up­load your images to use these sites, so you won’t save any more time than if you’d up­loaded them di­rectly to Face­book or Google Pho­tos, but you will main­tain the pic­ture qual­ity.

Down­load and con­vert videos from the web

HD Video Con­verter Fac­tory ( bit.ly/ hd­vid426) is a handy free tool that lets you down­load videos from Youtube and other video-host­ing web­sites such as Vimeo. Once down­loaded, you can trim, crop, merge and con­vert your video files from one for­mat to another. The free down­load is ac­tu­ally a cut­down ver­sion of a paid-for prod­uct, which means there are a few re­stric­tions to be aware of, in­clud­ing a max­i­mum res­o­lu­tion of 720p for your con­ver­sions. How­ever, the soft­ware is very easy to use: sim­ply click Down­load Video, copy the URL of the video you want to save and paste it into the ap­pro­pri­ate box, then click An­a­lyze. When it has fin­ished, you can choose a res­o­lu­tion and file for­mat from the drop-down menu and click Down­load. You then can con­vert the video us­ing the op­tions on the screen .

It prob­a­bly goes with­out say­ing that you should only down­load copy­right­free videos or those that you have per­mis­sion to down­load (al­though if you keep them for per­sonal use only, it’s un­likely that any­one will find out).

Rip un­pro­tected DVDS to your hard drive

With its friendly in­ter­face and in­te­grated down­loader, Freemake Video Con­verter ( bit.ly/freem430) is another use­ful tool for down­load­ing and con­vert­ing videos from the web but it’s also great for con­vert­ing videos to and from DVD. It might at­tempt to in­stall ad­di­tional soft­ware dur­ing in­stal­la­tion, but you can avoid this by opt­ing to per­form a cus­tom in­stal­la­tion and untick­ing any PUPS or ad­ware that ap­pear on the setup screen.

To rip a DVD, click ‘+DVD’, choose the DVD folder (VIDEO_TS) or the drive that con­tains the DVD disc. The tool then lets you choose which ‘ ti­tles’ you want to save. Click OK and pick

the au­dio track and sub­ti­tles you want to use from the drop-down menus. Next, se­lect an ex­port op­tion from the bot­tom of the screen. For most op­tions, a pop-up will ap­pear that lets you choose the res­o­lu­tion for your ex­ported video. ‘ Same as source’ is se­lected by de­fault but you can change this to HD 1080p, HD 720p, TV Qual­ity and Mo­bile Qual­ity. Al­ter­na­tively, click ‘Add your pre­set’ to en­ter your own cus­tom set­tings. Fi­nally choose where you want to save the video files, then click Con­vert to start the process. It’s worth point­ing out that Freemake adds a splash screen to the be­gin­ning and end of your con­verted video un­less you pay to re­move the brand­ing.

Ten­coder Video Con­verter ( bit.ly/ ten­coder430) is another great free tool for rip­ping videos from DVD, and it’s com­pletely free of ad­ware, al­though its in­ter­face isn’t as sim­ple as Freemake Video Con­verter’s.

Con­vert Ap­ple videos to play on An­droid de­vices

If some­one sends you a file from an iphone, ipad or Mac that you can’t play on your An­droid phone or tablet, one of the eas­i­est so­lu­tions is sim­ply to in­stall a player that recog­nises a wider range of for­mats, such as Mx­player ( bit.ly/ mx­player430) or HD Video Player ( bit.ly/hd­video430). If it’s just one file, how­ever, and you’d rather keep your de­fault video player, you can con­vert the video us­ing Au­dio/ Video Con­verter for An­droid ( bit.ly/con­verta430). This ex­cel­lent app sup­ports an im­pres­sive range of in­put files, in­clud­ing M4V, MOV, ASF, AVI, DIVX, FLV, M2V, MKV, MPG, OGG, OGV, RM, RMVB, WEBM, WMV, DV4, GIF and can con­vert them to a range of for­mats that An­droid’s video player can han­dle.

To con­vert a video, choose it from the app’s list of files on your de­vice and tap the pink con­ver­sion but­ton. Next, se­lect the con­ver­sion pro­file you want

to use. The de­fault op­tion for Ap­ple files should be to ‘Con­vert video to play on An­droid’, but you can use the Man­ual op­tion if you want to set the video res­o­lu­tion, au­dio qual­ity and so on. Some pre­sets are only avail­able in the Pro ver­sion of the app, which costs £ 1.99. Tap the three-dot but­ton, choose ‘Con­vert and save to’ and se­lect a folder in which to save the out­put file.

To con­vert videos from Ap­ple’s file for­mats on your PC, try us­ing Freemake Video Con­verter, which we men­tioned in the pre­vi­ous tip. Al­ter­na­tively, if you don’t want to down­load any soft­ware, you can use the bril­liant Cloud Con­vert ( cloud­con­vert.com) – see the box at the top of page 42.

Ex­tract the au­dio from video files

If you have a video of a con­cert or live per­for­mance and you want to lis­ten to the sound­track on your smart­phone, you could just leave the video play­ing to it­self in your pocket, but a bet­ter op­tion is to con­vert the sound­track to an au­dio file. To do this with Au­dio/ Video Con­verter for An­droid (see the pre­vi­ous tip), se­lect the ‘Au­dio Only’ op­tion dur­ing con­ver­sion. Another op­tion is to use the Video to MP3 con­verter ( bit.ly/vidm430), which has a ded­i­cated ‘ Video to au­dio’ func­tion as well as op­tions to trim video and au­dio files. See our Mini Work­shop, right, to find out how to use this tool.

You can also ex­tract the au­dio from videos on the web and save them as MP3 files us­ing the free pro­gram 4K Youtube to MP3 ( bit.ly/youtube430). Be­cause Google doesn’t want peo­ple to down­load pro­tected mu­sic from Youtube, you won’t find any apps in the Play Store that let you copy con­tent from the video site on your An­droid de­vice, but On­line Video Con­verter ( bit.ly/on­line430) should work. Un­like some sites, it lets you se­lect the au­dio qual­ity man­u­ally, and you can con­vert videos to AAC, WMA, M4A or FLAC as well as MP3 for­mat. If you re­ally want to use an app rather than a web­site, you’ll have to en­able the op­tion to in­stall apps from Un­known Sources in An­droid’s set­tings and then in­stall Tube Mate ( tube­mate.net). Make sure you in­stall it from a known source, though, be­cause there are many fake ver­sions of the app on­line that con­tain mal­ware.

Con­vert printed doc­u­ments to ed­itable text

There’s noth­ing more an­noy­ing than los­ing an im­por­tant doc­u­ment on your PC. When this hap­pens, it’s a re­lief to find an old printed copy, but typ­ing the whole thing out again is a real chore. Thanks to Mi­crosoft’s ex­cel­lent Of­fice­lens app for An­droid ( bit.ly/of­ficea430) and IOS ( bit.ly/ of­fi­cei430), it’s never been eas­ier to con­vert your printed doc­u­ments into ed­itable dig­i­tal copies. Sim­ply se­lect the app’s Doc­u­ment mode and use its au­to­matic fram­ing to cap­ture the ap­pro­pri­ate sec­tion.

Like Google’s Pho­to­scan, the app then crops the scan au­to­mat­i­cally and fixes its wonky per­spec­tive. How­ever, the magic re­ally hap­pens when you tap the but­ton to save it and tick the op­tion to con­vert it to a Word file. Your scan is then saved to Onedrive, and when you open it, you’ll no­tice that it con­tains both the orig­i­nal pho­to­graphs and an op­ti­cal char­ac­ter recog­ni­tion (OCR) con­ver­sion of the text it con­tains.

The scans aren’t al­ways per­fect, but tidy­ing up a doc­u­ment that has a few er­rors in it is much quicker than typ­ing it out again from scratch. You can cor­rect those bits that the app doesn’t get quite right by read­ing them di­rectly from your orig­i­nal scans. The app is also an ex­cel­lent place to keep dig­i­tal copies of re­ceipts and busi­ness cards, and there’s even a mode for cap­tur­ing white­boards in meet­ings and class­rooms.

Text Scan­ner ( bit.ly/text430) is another light­weight An­droid app that con­verts your scans to ed­itable text. It’s im­pres­sively ac­cu­rate and you don’t need a Mi­crosoft Onedrive ac­count to use it. You can also use Google Drive on your PC to con­vert an im­age to ed­itable text. Sim­ply right-click the file in Google Drive, then se­lect ‘Open with’ and Google Docs.

Open and edit Of­fice files in Google apps

Of­fice files are easy to con­vert into Google Docs, Sheets or Slides, and you don’t need to in­stall any ex­tra soft­ware. First, up­load the file to Google Drive, then right-click it and choose ‘Open with’ fol­lowed by Google Docs (or Sheets or Slides). You can then edit the file in Google Docs. When you’ve fin­ished work­ing on it, choose File, ‘ Down­load as’ and se­lect DOCX from the menu to con­vert it back to a Word doc­u­ment.

This method should suf­fice if you edit Of­fice files only oc­ca­sion­ally, but if you want to be able to open and edit DOCX files with a sin­gle click (and with­out hav­ing to con­vert them to Google Docs first), you should in­stall the Of­fice Edit­ing for Docs, Sheets and Slides ex­ten­sion for Chrome ( bit.ly/ of­fice430). Once you’ve added the ex­ten­sion, open an Of­fice file and click File. You should see “Of­fice Com­pat­i­bil­ity Mode” in this menu.

Of­fice Com­pat­i­bil­ity Mode is in­cluded with the An­droid and IOS apps for Docs, Sheets and Slides by de­fault, which means you can edit Of­fice files sim­ply by open­ing them in the ap­pro­pri­ate app.

Rip scratched CDS with per­fect re­sults

Ex­act Au­dio Copy ( www .ex­ac­tau­dio­copy.de) is an ex­cel­lent free tool that not only lets you rip your CDS as loss­less FLAC or WAV files, but also reads ev­ery sec­tor of the CD at least twice to ver­ify that the data it has copied is cor­rect. If you have lots of scratches on your old CDS, this pro­gram will re-read the sec­tions that con­tain er­rors up to 82 times, so you can be con­fi­dent it’ll do a bet­ter job than any other rip­ping tool. If af­ter all that, Ex­act Au­dio Copy still isn’t sure that the au­dio stream is cor­rect, it’ll tell you where the read er­rors are, so you won’t need to lis­ten to ev­ery track your­self to iden­tify trou­ble­some sec­tions. It’s not the fastest rip­ping tool avail­able, but it should help you copy your CDS with the great­est ac­cu­racy, and it has a built-in sound wave edi­tor that you can use to re­move any pops, clicks and other glitches that get past its checks.

Con­vert FLAC files to lis­ten to on any de­vice

The dis­ad­van­tage of rip­ping CDS to a loss­less for­mat is that you may not be able to play them on ev­ery de­vice you own. Even if your smart­phone can play loss­less files, their huge file sizes can make them an im­prac­ti­cal choice. You can store many more MP3S of the same songs than loss­less FLAC files, for ex­am­ple, and the dif­fer­ence is barely dis­cernible un­less you’re lis­ten­ing in a quiet en­vi­ron­ment with ex­pen­sive head­phones. Freerip Ba­sic ( www .freerip.com) is an in­tu­itive CD rip­per that also sup­ports au­dio file con­ver­sions in­clud­ing FLAC to MP3.

If you al­ready have FLAC files on your smart­phone and you want to con­vert them to some­thing smaller, Au­dio/ Video Con­verter for An­droid (which we also men­tion in our ear­lier tip about con­vert­ing Ap­ple video files – bit.ly/con­verta430) is the per­fect tool for the job.

Tim­bre ( bit.ly/tim­bre430) is another ex­cel­lent app that lets you con­vert both au­dio and video files, and you can use it to cut and join your files too.

Con­vert text to speech

As well as con­vert­ing be­tween most types of video and au­dio file, Tim­bre (see above) in­cludes a fea­ture that lets you con­vert text into spo­ken words. This im­pres­sive tool is handy if you want to add a com­men­tary to a video or spo­ken in­struc­tions to a web­site with­out hav­ing to record your own voice. The app uses your phone’s built-in text-tospeech en­gine, so you sim­ply type or paste any text you want to use and Tim­bre will con­vert it to speech that you can ex­port as an au­dio file.

Pho­to­scan au­to­mat­i­cally re­moves glare and cor­rects wonky per­spec­tive when scan­ning old prints

Batch­photo Es­presso lets you con­vert and edit most pop­u­lar im­age for­mats

Freemake Video Con­verter lets you choose the out­put qual­ity for videos you rip from DVD

TINYJPG re­duces file sizes with­out sig­nif­i­cantly com­pro­mis­ing qual­ity

Mak­ing your pho­tos smaller be­fore you up­load them re­duces the time it takes

Down­load­ing videos from Youtube is easy with HD Video Con­verter Fac­tory

Paste any Youtube URL into On­line Video Con­verter to down­load its au­dio track

Con­vert Ap­ple videos to a uni­ver­sal for­mat us­ing Au­dio/ Video Con­verter

Scan doc­u­ments with Of­fice­lens to turn them back into ed­itable DOCX files

Use Tim­bre to con­vert text into speech and ex­port it as an au­dio file

Ex­act Au­dio Copy lets you re­move pops, clicks and other im­per­fec­tions from your au­dio tracks

You can con­vert FLAC files to MP3, WAV or WMA with Freerip

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