Archive for August, 2007

If you manage projects, you need OpenProj

Friday, August 31st, 2007

screenshot of OpenProj

Life is complex and complicated. There's always too much to keep track of, and after a while the PostIts around your monitor, or the pile of legal pads on the floor just don't cut it any more. How are you going to keep track of all this stuff: people, tasks, dates?

Microsoft Project is the standard for managing complex projects. Paying a lot for it is also the standard, unfortunately.

OpenProj is a free, open-source project management application. Fully compatible with MS Project, you can import your existing files. For new projects, you can enter tasks and milestones, and define dependencies. Use Gantt and PERT charts to visualize your projects and timelines, giving you the information you need to keep on top of things.

OpenProj is available for Windows in an .msi installer; versions are also available for Linux and other UNIX-es (Unicies?) as well as OS X.

Download OpenProj

This DSL doesn’t require a phone line

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

screenshot of DSL

Apps that live on a thumb drive are handy. You can carry your stuff around with you and run it wherever you find a suitable machine, without having to tote your laptop or (shudder!) a desktop machine around with you. What about a whole system on a thumb drive?

DSL ("Damn Small Linux") is a full Linux system that will fit onto a CD, thumb drive, or can be loaded onto the hard drive of your computer. Only 50MB in size, this distro will run on as little as a '486 with 16MB of RAM; or it functions as a full system with only 128MB of memory. You can even run it inside of Windows if you are so inclined.

While it's not got all the bells and whistles, DSL comes with a respectable cohort of software, including a desktop GUI, a media player, web browsers(including Firefox), word processor and text editors, and oodles of other stuff.

Linux has always been an interesting way to make use of some of the older machines you've got lying around, since there are many versions that don't require the horsepower of an XP or Vista. DSL takes this to the extreme.

DSL runs on x86 machines.

Download DSL

I don’t care whether you can read it–Copy It Anyway

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

screenshot of Copy It Anyway

You've seen it: yesterday file X was fine, but today it's broken. Whether it's a hard drive crash or just a system hiccup, all of a sudden you can't read a file. Now that you can't read it, you can't copy it, you can't fix it, and all that. You probably know that there's a problem with the file. Wouldn't it be nice if you could copy it anyway?

Copy It Anyway is a tool that allows you to do just that. Instead of losing a file because one piece of it is broken, you can now grab the parts that aren't broken–which is often the bulk of the file–and take it elsewhere to work with.

You can run Copy It Anyway through its GUI, for easier scenarios, or from a command prompt, allow you to construct complex batch files to deal with multiple files in multiple locations.

Copy It Anyway is a Windows app that should run on anything from Win98 forward.

Download Copy It Anyway

Play the drum solo from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida on your desktop

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

screenshot of MacDrumset

Air guitar is all the rage. Keyboard simulators are pretty easy to find. What if your predilection run more toward the percussive end of the spectrum?

MacDrumset is a drum simulation app for the next Buddy Rich (or John Bonham, without the whole dying part). Using nothing but your computer keyboard, you can play your heart out on a virtual drum kit with a kick drum, three snares and toms, two cymbals, and even hand claps to round out the collection. There are also a couple of built-in rhythms, for times when you just feel like phoning it in.

There's nothing too fancy about MacDrumset, but it is a fun little diversion, and hey, if you're going to be drumming your fingers on the desktop, why not include a good rimshot or crash from time to time.

MacDrumset is a MacOS "Classic" app. It runs under OS 9 or in "classic" mode for OS X systems so equipped.

Download MacDrumset

Flowcharts and org charts for free with DrawAnywhere

Monday, August 27th, 2007

screenshot of DrawAnywhere online drawing and diagramming tool

Sometimes nothing beats a good flowchart. You can describe a process, you can sketch and doodle, but if you really want to explain how something happens, a flowchart is about as clear and unambiguous as you can get.

With flowcharts, not only does everything have a nice arrow on it, telling you which direction the work flows, but the symbols used in them all have standardized meanings. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then those little boxes, diamonds, and parallelograms must be worth at least 500 words each.

DrawAnywhere is a free tool that puts the power of flowcharts at your command. Rather than having to spend big bucks and suffer a steep learning curve with an app like Visio, DrawAnywhere is available online for free use. There's nothing to buy, nothing to download. If you have a modern browser, you're already set to use it.

Along with flow charts, you can use DrawAnywhere to lay-out organization charts as well. Those are kind of like flow charts, except we already know which direction "stuff" flows, right? (Downhill, of course.)

DrawAnywhere is an online tool. You can use it from any system that has Internet access, a web browser, and Flash 9.

Check out DrawAnywhere

Save the whole page with URL2JPEG

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

screenshot of URL2JPEG

URL2JPEG is a slick tool that lets you save a whole web page off as an image. Each OS has its own way to do a screenshot, but that only grabs the visible portion of the screen or window. "Printing" a page to .pdf has problems as well–since the "d" in "pdf" stands for "document", your .pdf has page breaks in it. What if you need the whole multi-screen page saved off as an image?

URL2JPEG will save an entire web page as an image; you can choose jpeg, png, or bmp format, depending on what you're going to do with the image, or just save it to the clipboard if you're going to paste it into another document right away. Resize the resulting image if you want, or even create a thumbnail. You can choose to get rid of scrollbars to pretty things up. You can also save smaller pieces of the page as well, grabbing just the regions you are interested in.

Using its own browser interface, you don't have to worry about compatibility with your web browser of choice. There are several other similar apps out there that rely on your using a specific version of IE, for example, for things to work.

URL2JPEG is a Windows app and will run on systems with Win98 or later. It also requires the .NET Framework 2.0.

Download URL2JPEG

PagePlus SE flattens the steep learning curve for DTP apps

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

screenshot of PagePlus SE

Desktop publishing is a big deal. The popular tools available to you, like InDesign and Quark, are pretty expensive and have a very steep learning curve. They may be great if you're laying out a newspaper, or creating the next mail order catalog. But what if your DTP needs run more along the lines of greeting cards and posters?

PagePlus SE is a more modest, and certainly a less expensive alternative, to the mainstream applications. It comes with a host of templates for common needs, like booklets and banners. Rather than having to spend all your time learning how to use the tool, the tool can help you to get real work done.

QuickShapes can make an artist out of the design-challenged, and built-in color schemes can make it look like you know what you're doing, even if you really don't.

Also available for free download are advanced template add-ons, that allow you to just enter your text into pre-fab designs and go.

PagePlus SE is available for free and runs on any Windows platform from Win95 forward.

Download PagePlus SE

Maybe you’ll be the next great designer with freeCAD

Friday, August 24th, 2007

screenshot of freeCAD

freeCAD is a basic 3-D CAD application, that allows you to try your hand at computer aided design without having to pay a fortune for the privilege. If you're planning to take on General Motors or Boeing, this is probably not the tool for you, but if you want a basic introduction to the electronic version of the drafting board and T-square, you can't beat this price.

freeCAD allows you to execute mechanical drawings, as you would expect a CAD app to do. In addition, you can also animate your work. If you design a cam shaft, you can make it rotate, and actuate a cam follower or rocker arm. With a bunch of example assemblies included, you should be able to get started quickly in creating and animating your own inventions. The publisher's website has an extensive set of video tutorials that walk you through the process of creating, fine-tuning, and animating your drawings.

freeCAD is available for Linux, MacOS, OS X, Windows, and several flavors of UNIX.

Download freeCAD

Keep your hard drive tidy with AppCleaner

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

screenshot of AppCleaner

It' s fun and exciting to get new software. Whether it's the next great productivity tool, the be-all and end-all app for communications, or even the best game ever, we all enjoy loading new "stuff" onto our systems. sometimes, though, the excitement wears off. It could be something as simple as beginning to run out of room on your hard drive; or it could be that the new program that promised such great leaps in your productivity doesn't deliver. Now you have to get rid of that app.

Some software comes with thorough uninstallers. Others may just grab a few key files but leave their fingerprints all over your system. some may have no uninstall at all, and leave you to rely on your own wits to clean things up.

AppCleaner is an app that uninstalls all of the stuff that has been installed. Along with the main executables, it goes out and grabs all the configuration files, preferences , and all the other "stuff" that really adds up to fill up your system. Sure, it works for regular desktop applications, but it also deals with getting rid of widgets and preference panes as well. You can also "protect" selected apps, so that they can't be inadvertently removed.

AppCleaner is a Mac app; it's distributed as a Universal Binary and requires OS X 10.4.

Download AppCleaner

Stay on top of shared expenses with Billshare

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

screenshot of Billshare

Splitting a check at lunch can be complicated. Splitting the cable bill? Even more so. How much do I owe? Have you paid yet?

Billshare is an online service that helps roommates or others with shared bills to keep on track of who owes what. Better than just sharing a spreadsheet, Billshare allows you to enter bills, generate "receipts"–a list of payments that need to be made by each group member–and get statistics of the bill and payment history. There's an RSS feed that allows you to be updated immediately when new bills and payments are posted to your account. You can post messages to other members of your group on the "group wall".

Signup is easy: just create an account for each bill sharer. Once you're in, create a group with each of you as members, and there you go. Your data is safe, being secured using the latest and greatest state of the art methods.

Since it's an online service, Billshare should be available to anyone with a current-generation web browser and an Internet connection.

Download Billshare