Archive for March, 2008

RescueTime can keep control your time

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

screenshot of RescueTime

How do you spend your time? By the end of the day, we've been so many places and done so many things, it's hard to reconstruct exactly what happened. And what about the little tasks that don't take any time themselves, but add up to several hours by the end of the day or week?

Sure, you can keep track of what tools you've used and which applications you've run, but pretty quickly it becomes clear that the overhead involved in breaking your time down can easily grow into a big task itself, which doesn't really benefit anybody.

With RescueTime, you install a "dohickey" on your system (their words, not ours). Data is store remotely, so you won't take up all of your hard drive space keeping track of how you use your hard drive space. Tell it which applications you want to keep track of, which websites you're interested in, or even which categories of work you want to track. It then keeps track of how much time you spend with a particular application active on your desktop, or how long you spend on those websites. You can track where you've been, or how how much time you've spent surfing the web. Want to spend less time on email? Set a goal—maybe an hour a day—and let RescueTime tell you whether you've achieved that goal.

RescueTime is still in Beta, so there may be a few rough edges. The up-side is that as an early adopter, your feedback can help make this an even better tool.

RescueTime is available for Windows, Mac, and even Linux, and requires an active Internet connection.

Download RescueTime

Capture Me gives you versatility in taking screen shots

Friday, March 21st, 2008

screenshot of Capture Me

Grab is a quick-and-easy tool to use to grab a screenshot on your Mac. It does a fairly serviceable job, unless you need anything fancy. Want a specific file format? Want to add translucency to the image? You may be out of luck.

Capture Me is a native Mac tool that lets you make your screenshots and more. Save your images as PNG, JPEG, TIFF, or GIF files. Add translucency to them. Save to the desktop, or place them on your system clipboard. All the flexibility is yours. Adjust the size and shape of the regions you're grabbing. You can even create short QuickTime movies. It incorporates some minor AppleScript support, so it may help you to automate the process.

Capture Me is a Mac application. It is distributed as a Universal Binary, so it'll run on both PPC and Intel machines. It requires OS X 10.4 or later.

Download Capture Me

Hey! It's time to wake up with Talking Alarm Clock

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

screenshot of Talking Alarm Clock

Let's face it, it's just hard to get up in the morning—or any other time….

I've got an alarm clock, and I'm sure you do, too. Mine yells at me: BUZZ! BUZZ! Fist hits top of clock.

Sure, there are clock radios, but what about an alarm that talks to you. "Excuse me, but don't you think it's time to get up?" Much more calm.

Talking Alarm Clock is an alarm for your computer that lets you choose how to alert you that time's up. You can choose daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly alarms, or just set it for a once-only reminder. You can also decide how you want to be alerted. Whether it's popping up a window with text in it, speaking that message to you, playing an audio file (we don't recommend Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture), or with Microsoft Agent you can even have an animated character make the announcement. Sure beats the clock radio with the political talk show host screaming at you.

Talking Alarm Clock is a Windows application. It requires Windows 98 or later, and optionally Microsoft Agent.

Download Talking Alarm Clock

Create a booklet from any PDF document with BookletCreator

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

screenshot of BookletCreator

PDF files are a great way to make data available. Everybody can open them, and it's much easier to email an electronic file than to print out a big document, schlep over to the Post Office, and wait days or weeks for it to get to your intended audience.

Unfortunately, most PDFs are set up as letter-sized 8 1/2 x 11-inch pages. Great to read, but not so great to carry around with you, especially with a great big staple in the corner. Sometimes it would be handy to have a little booklet instead.

BookletCreator in an online tool that lets you convert your full-size PDF document into a booklet. Along with shrinking your letter-sized page down to a half-size 5 1/2 x 8 1/2-inch format, it does the heavy lifting of figuring out how to paginate things so that when you run the resulting file through your printer with a "print on both sides" instruction, it will lay the pages out correctly. For bigger documents, which are difficult to fold and staple on generally-available office equipment, you can break the booklet into multiple booklets, so that you don't have just a big wad of paper when you're done.

BookletCreator has a simple interface: browse to your document, choose whether you want to create a single- or multiple booklets, and click the button. Your document is processed and immediately fed back to your browser, downloading to your local drive. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

BookletCreator is a free online service. It should be compatible with most modern web browsers.

Download BookletCreator

Make your words count with Word Counter

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

screenshot of Word Counter

So just how productive are you? You're writing a blog post that has to be 150 words long. Maybe you're writing an AdWords ad and you need a 25-word title. Are we there yet?

Whether it's an online form that requires that you not be too long, or an essay that must be 5000 words in length, size matters. It's not always easy to know just how much you've written.

Word Counter can help with this. Whether it's characters or words that you're interested in, you'll know what you've accomplished. You can type text directly into this tool, copy and paste from other apps, or even drag documents into the window. Interested in a whole folder worth of documents? Just drag multiple files, or even whole directories in, and you're good to go. Along with counting words, you can also take a look at what words are there. Whether it's counting the number of times you use a particular word, or even generating a list of all the words you've used, it's all there.

As you'd expect, Word Counter can work with straight-up text files, but it also handles Word documents (both DOC and WORDML), RTF documents, and even HTML files.

Got a special rule you need to follow, like "ignore if, and, and but"? You can filter your results so you get the count you're looking for. Pretty slick.

Word Counter is a tool for your Macintosh. It's a Universal Binary, so it's equally at home on your PowerPC or x86 Mac. It requires OS X ver 10.4 or later.

Download Word Counter

GSiteCrawler helps Google see your more obscure pages

Monday, March 17th, 2008

screenshot of GSiteCrawler

For your website's pages to show up in search results in Google, Yahoo!, and the other search engines, their "robots" have to be able to find your site's pages. That stands to reason: how can they report on what they haven't seen? The "seeing" part, however, isn't always so easy.

Search engines run on a numbers game. They want to be able to report the greatest number of relevant results to their visitors while expending the least amount of effort on their part. Generally search engines find your site by following links from other sites; then find other pages by navigating through your site. There are some types of navigation that work well for your human visitors that just don't work for search engine robots.

Search engines can't click buttons, they can't follow JavaScript links, and they don't like big, long, nasty URLs like

   http://www.example.com/somepage?arg1=one&arg2=two&arg3=three…..

So how do you get those pages indexed?

The major search engines support what they call "site maps", a way that you can submit a list of your pages to Google, in effect telling them "these are the pages on my site that you should crawl." This site map file is a specially-formatted XML file that adheres to specific standards. While Google makes available a tool to help you do this, it is written in the Python language. That's nice, but if Python makes you think of an English comedy troupe rather than a computer program, it may not the solution for you.

GSiteCrawler is a Windows tool that generates site map files that can be used by Google and Yahoo!. You can load it onto your Microsoft web server, or presumably grab the log files from your Apache server, turn the crank, and generate that standards-compliant site map file. Much easier than learning Python.

GSiteCrawler is a Windows app, and will run on any 32-bit Windows platform—Win95 or later. It also requires Internet Explorer 5.5 or better.

Download GSiteCrawler

Printable Timesheets make for an easier payday

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

screenshot of PrintableTimesheets

Work is a noble thing. It helps give meaning to our lives. It keeps us occupied and engaged. Oh, yeah, it pays the bills, too.

No matter what other benefits may accrue to us through work, that paycheck is a strong motivator, and a reward for a job well done. Some folks work on salary, or are paid by the project, so everybody agrees ahead of time what will be in the pay envelope. With hourly folks, that's not true.

Whether you work on an hourly basis, or simply want to track your time as it's split between multiple projects, it's important to keep track of how many hours you work, and when those hours are. Whether you track your hours with an electromechanical time clock, a pad of paper on your desk, or some other form, at some point those lists of hours have to be summarized, and the hours turned into dollars.

PrintableTimesheets.net offers more than 40 employee time sheet templates that you can download and print. Categories include weekly, bi-weekly, semimonthly, and timesheets with overtime calculation. These PDF files allow you to standardize your data collection, and make it easy for the payroll folks to do their job. Everybody likes it when payroll goes easier.

Customizable versions, which perform the actual calculations, are also available for a nominal charge. These are compatible with Excel, Google Docs, and most other spreadsheet apps.

PrintableTimesheets are compatible with most systems that support PDF files and spreadsheets.

Download PrintableTimesheets

andLinux lets you take Linux for a spin without dumping Windows

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

screenshot of andLinux

Interested in Linux, but don't want to trash your Windows setup? Doing a full-on install may be more of a risk than you want to take, especially if you're just taking it for a spin. There are several packages out there that allow you to run both Windows and Linux on the same box; andLinux may be one of the better ones.

andLinux is a complete Ubuntu Linux system that runs under Windows. It comes with a full complement of applications. Rather than a full Linux desktop, you'll run apps on your existing Windows desktop. You can run andLinux as a command line application, or you can use it as an NT service, where you get a control panel at the top of your desktop, or a new start menu in your System Tray that allows you to run Linux apps. Unlike some dual systems that require you to boot into either Windows or Linux—but not both—with andLinux you start Linux, you don't boot Linux. That means that you can cut-and-paste between Windows and Linux apps, since you're using your standard Windows clipboard.

andLinux is a Windows app. It requires Win2k or later running with an NTFS file system.

Download andLInux

Cut down on repetitive cut-and-paste with Piky Basket

Friday, March 14th, 2008

screenshot of Piky Basket

One of the greatest advantages of a graphical user interface for an operating system, as opposed to a straight-up command prompt, is the ability to copy, cut, and paste things from here to there. Grabbing something and moving it is a lot easier than typing torturously long path-and-filename combinations to specify that you you want to move a file or directory from here to there. Unfortunately, if you need to move a lot of things, it can still take quite a bit of time, since your clipboard can handle only one item at a time: grab this file at its original location, stick it on the clipboard, paste it into the new location, repeat. Several times, if you're not lucky.

With Piky Basket, you can grab all the files you want to move, drop them all into the clipboard, and them go paste them en masse into the desired new location. Instead of copy-paste, it's copy-copy-copy-paste. It's great for moving files and directories around, and outstanding if you need to drop those files into multiple locations—like in burning a CD, making a back up, and so forth.

Piky Basket will work with just about any 32-bit version of Windows, from the oldest Win95 up to the latest release of Vista.

Download Piky Basket

Create your own world with Crayon Physics

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

screenshot of Crayon Physics

Have you ever read the children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon? Armed with only a simple crayon, Harold creates a whole new world, where what he draws comes to life. You can have a similar experience with Crayon Physics.

With Crayon Physics, you create a world on your system that responds to forces as real objects do. Draw a box on the screen, and it "falls" toward the bottom of the screen, as if pulled by gravity. You can have free-falling objects like this, or by inserting pivot points, you can create levers that redirect forces in directions you want them to go. As a game, you move a ball around on screen, allowing it to collect stars. Create ramps, drop things to push them along, the sky's the limit of what you can do to manipulate your new world here. You'll probably have best results with a stylus, although you can still draw things with your mouse.

There is a deluxe version in the works (watch the video to see what's in store) that hasn't dropped yet.

Crayon Physics is a Windows application and requires Win98 or later.

Download Crayon Physics