Office and productivity

Get Pixar's rendering software behind 'Toy Story' absolutely free

Pixar's award-winning, in-house rendering software, RenderMan, will be free starting in August. All you have to do is sign up. The Emeryville studio has announced that it will offer the $500 rendering software for free, provided it is used for noncommercial purposes. The animation giant has also stated that the "free non-commercial RenderMan is exactly the same as the commercial version." This is pretty awesome news for aspiring digital artists.

The free version of RenderMan will be released with its commercial counterpart sometime in August. You can sign up here to get notified once it goes live. … Read more

Name your own price coding bundle at Udemy

We're doing something a little different this week. Instead of the usual software deal, we've partnered with StackSocial to bring you some of the best coding classes on popular online learning platform Udemy. The price? You decide. The best part is that 10 percent of your purchase will go to the charity of your choice. This deal is available through StackSocial.

Learn how to be a Web developer, design your own Web site, or just improve your coding skills with these lectures, videos, and tutorials. Beat the average price (currently $14.66), and you'll get all eight … Read more

The software week in review for May 23

This week Facebookers unearthed a Zuckasaurus, eBayers learned their info was exposed, Apple fans spread iOS 8 rumors, and a flock of new releases landed on the Internet. Read on for our recap, and to get the latest product reviews and updates from our editors in your inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletters.

Threatdown

On Thursday Facebook announced two new privacy features. First, the default setting for new users will be to share posts with friends only. Current users can, of course, make that same choice in the Settings menu. Second, in the next few weeks, Facebook will introduce a … Read more

Star Apps: Richard Edwards from Margot & the Nuclear So and So's

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's frontman Richard Edwards speaks like he sings, calmly and deliberately. The band, from Chicago and Indianapolis and named after a Wes Anderson character, has released its sixth album, "Sling Shot to Heaven." The 13 tranquil tracks are highlighted by Edward's soothing finger-picking and hypnotic, Chris Martin-esque vocals. I chatted with Richard Edwards about the new album, the "Lazy" single, social media, and his favorite apps.

It's common knowledge that you named the band after the Gwyneth Paltrow character in "The Royal Tenenbaums." Are you … Read more

Star Apps: Lyndsey Scott

Model Lyndsey Scott is used to the limelight -- she was an in-demand high-fashion and lingerie model for Prada, Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, and Victoria's Secret. In recent months, she has generated positive buzz in the tech world after developing three apps: Educate, a companion app for the Educate organization, which helps develop future leaders in Uganda; iPort, a stylish portfolio app for models, architects, and artists; and The Matchmaker, an innovative social-networking app. But there was a time, back in high school, when Scott wasn't so popular and faced bullying. Scott talked with me about that harassment, … Read more

5 tips for running Windows XP relatively safely

Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP, an OS still used by approximately 20-25% of Windows customers. That means one in four PC users must upgrade to a more secure, supported version of Windows or risk their un-updated, un-patched version of Windows XP catching a virus or other Internet bug. As a rule of thumb, we always recommend upgrading your OS and then updating it as often as possible to protect your system. If you're switching to a new OS, read how to migrate easily from Windows XP. However, if you're a die-hard who wants to keep a Windows … Read more

Windows 8.1 announcements at Build 2014

Today Microsoft officially announced upcoming features for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 at the Build developer conference in San Francisco.

The Windows Phone 8.1 update introduces the Action Center, a slide-down panel for notifications and phone activity similar to what's available for iOS and Android. The update brings customizable notification settings for developers, including app-specific triggers for vibration and sound.

Another big update is the introduction of Cortana, Microsoft's personal assistant powered by the Bing search engine. Though the keynote demo had some hiccups, Cortana's voice recognition shows a lot of progress and … Read more

Microsoft Office for iPad unveiled

Today Microsoft released Office for the iPad. New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella held a press conference in San Francisco to reveal the long-awaited -- some would say overdue -- suite of apps for the tablet.

The Office apps are standalone -- you download Word, Excel, and PowerPoint separately, and each has an icon on your iPad. The apps are also free, but you can only view documents. To edit, you must have an Office 365 subscription ($9.99 per month for home, $5-$15 per month for business). With Office 365, you can also sync your files across the cloud. … Read more

3 Spritz-like speed-reading apps for Android

When the Samsung Galaxy S5 was announced, details emerged about Spritz -- a speed-reading feature that comes built-in to some apps on the phone. Spritz uses rapid serial visual presentation, or RSVP, to display words one after another using a single focal point. The company calls this point the optimal recognition point, or ORP.

The technology isn't exactly new -- it dates back to the 1970s -- and it was even used in software for last decade's phones. In 2005 CNET covered a demo version of BuddyBuzz, mobile software that could display one word at a time on … Read more

File your return from anywhere with these top tax apps

Avoid the mad, end-of-tax-season scramble by getting some apps to help you calculate how much you owe Uncle Sam. Even if you've already filed, these apps can help you get organized and prepared for next year's return.

Organizing your tax records

Shoeboxed (iOS, Android)

Gone are the days of keeping all your receipts in a box above the fridge. Shoeboxed makes it easier to track your expenses -- just take a photo of your receipts, and Shoeboxed will safely store them. From there the app will archive based on dates and sort your spending into different categories (food, … Read more