Archive for September, 2008

Set default apps for your Mac

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

screenshot of RCDefaultApp

So there you are, sitting at your Mac, just getting all kinds of work done. Open this file, go to that website, you're on a roll now. Okay, now double-click on that file. Darn! It's opened up in TextEdit again, when you'd rather use BBEdit or some other tool.

You can always open a Finder window, right-click on your file, and open the Get Info box, and then choose a default application from the Open With list, but that's kind of slow and tedious. Isn't there a better way to choose default applications for different types of files?

Welcome to RCDefaultApp. A preference pane, it's installed into your System Preferences. Open it up, and you've got several ways to tweak your system so that files and documents will open with the tools you really want to use. Unlike the Get Info solution, you can work on several file types at a time, assigning default applications by file name extension, MIME type, or Mac file type. Make sure that all your text files open in your favorite text editor; know that all your URLs open in your default browser and not in Internet Explorer 5.

RCDefaultApp is a Mac application. It runs under OS X and is compatible with systems using version 10.2 or later.

Download RCDefaultApp

Free Online Website Builder

Monday, September 29th, 2008

screenshot of Doodlekit

Okay, so you need to create a website. That may not seem too daunting a task. Unless you have no artistic sense. Or you don't know HTML. Or you don't have a copy of Dreamweaver or some other WYSIWYG web editor. Maybe it is too daunting after all. Or maybe not.

Doodlekit may be the answer to all these problems. It's an online website builder that helps you to get the job done, without losing your mind in the process. Choose from among multiple layouts and color schemes, add stock photos, background images, and more. Pretty quick, your new website is up and running without your breaking a sweat. Pretty slick. And since everything is done online, you don't need to worry about downloading and installing (and paying for) complex software on your system. Need to include a blog? It's done. Create and RSS feed? All taken care of. It really is just that easy. The price is easy too: free.

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

Download Doodlekit

Camino Web Browser for Mac

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

screenshot of Camino

If you do anything online, you're familiar with the name Mozilla. Many of the most significant applications out there are associated with this name: the Firefox web browser, the Thunderbird email and news client, the Sunbird calendaring application, and more. These open-source tools have all been well received, increasingly popular, and available for free. They serve as a way to break the strangle-hold on software development by the big publishers. These tools are all available for multiple platforms.

Part of the genius of these applications is that they are cross-platform, with a version available to you whether you run Windows, or you're a dyed-in-the-wool Mac aficionado, or even a fan of Linux and the other UNIX-like platforms out there. If you've run Firefox on your XP box, you probably have it installed on your MacBook, and there's a copy on your Ubuntu machine as well. The uniformity between platforms means there's no learning curve in moving from one to another, but one-size-fits-all solutions sometimes don't fit as well as we might hope for.

For serious fans of all things Apple, there is an alternative in the browser wars: Camino. Unlike Firefox, Camino is a Mac-only browser built on the Gecko rendering engine. It uses the Aqua user interface, so it looks like (and behaves like) other native Mac programs. It uses Keychain for password management, and it knows about Bonjour (Rendezvous).

The latest version of Camino adds automated RSS feed detection, built-in spell checking, and more. It runs under OS X 10.3.9 or later. For older systems, there are still versions available for users back to 10.2.8.

Download Camino

Resize hard drive partitions with EASEUS

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

screenshot of EASEUS

Where would be be without hard drive partitions? Partitions are a great way to take our increasingly larger hard drives and break them down into more manageable chunks. If you had to deal with a 500GB drive as just one letter, you'd probably never find anything on there. In addition, you're going to have huge sectors, meaning that you're losing a lot of disk capacity for each little-bitty file.

Partitions are a way to break this big storage area down into smaller, more easily managed pieces, and that's a good thing. Once you've created your partitions, though, you're pretty much stuck with them. What seemed like a great organizational scheme yesterday may not work for you today. You need a tool that lets you tweak your partitions, adding, removing, and resizing them.

EASEUS is one such tool. If you're familiar with Partition Magic in the world of paid software, then you know where we're going here. Once you've worked with your system, you're going to get smarter and have a better idea of how to best configure it, and rather than having to dump your whole hard drive (again), take what you've already got and just make it better.

EASEUS is free for home users. They have paid versions for business use, or for installation onto servers. It's a Windows app, and the free version is compatible with Win2k and XP.

Download EASEUS

FunBrain makes thinking and learning fun

Friday, September 26th, 2008

screenshot of FunBrain

While FunBrain is a web site, in some ways it's more like a collection of games and tools for kids. Whether you're looking for math games, reading activities, or just plain fun, there's probably something here to appeal to you. Play games like Math Baseball (practice your arithmetic while scoring a home run), help Pearl and Flora with plural forms of words, and more. Web books and comics help with reading practice. There are also activities for younger kids, so everybody can have fun and learn at the same time.

FunBrain features a fair number of advertisements, so parents will want to keep an eye on their kids as they move through the site (but you already monitor your little ones when they're online, right?). They've got a good Privacy Policy in place, so you can feel safe while you're on the site.

FunBrain is a free service. Most of its content should be available for visitors with modern web browsers. Certain activities may require Flash or other extensions to your browser.

Download FunBrain

Read classic stories online for free

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

screenshot of Classic Reader

Do you love to read, but can't ever seem to get away to the library? Do you desperately need to know at 3:00 am why Alice read Jabberwocky, and there's not a bookstore open anywhere in sight? You could be a candidate for Classic Reader.

Classic Reader offers thousands of works of literature (both novels and short stories) by hundreds of authors. They run the gamut from Aesop to Zane Grey to D. H. Lawrence, to our favorite, Lewis Carroll. Works are indexed by title and author, so it's easy to find your favorites. They're all in the public domain, so there aren't any copyright issues to have to worry about.

There's no download required—these aren't e-books, rather they're all plain old HTML files hosted on their servers, so all you need is a web browser to read any and all selections. If you do decide that you want to download a volume or three, you can register with the site (no charge) and download text.

Download Classic Reader

Shopping list tool for your handheld device

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

screenshot of HandyShopper

So where would we be without our handheld electronics? Whether it's keeping track of our schedule or keeping in touch via email, SMS text message, telephone, or websites, there's almost nothing those things can't do. What about shopping?

If you're like most of us, even though you've got more computing power in the palm of your hand that it took for a moon shot, you probably go shopping with notes scribbled on an index card, scrap of paper, or shopping list. How about harnessing the power of your electronic gizmo?

HandyShopper is an application that lets you do just that. Set up stores, categories, and items that you need to shop for. As you pick up items on the list, mark them appropriately and they disappear, so that your list gets shorter and shorter the closer you get to completion—much nicer than crossing stuff off a hand-written list, and certainly easier to read. With search and sort functionality, you can juggle your list until it makes the most sense to you.

HandyShopper works on any Pocket PC device that uses Windows Mobileā„¢ 2003 or higher, and on any device that uses Palm OS 2.0 through OS 5.x.

Download HandyShopper

LightBox Free Photo Editor

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

screenshot of LightBox Free

If you take a lot of digital photos, you know that sometimes you need to tweak them to get them "just right". Whether it's issues with lighting and color, poorly framed subject, or the dreaded red-eye, you know that you need a tool to help you clean up your images. You also know that if you want to buy a copy of Photoshop you may have to refinance your house.

If your graphical editing needs are primarily in dealing with photos like this, then you might want to take a look at LightBox Free.

It's a professional-level image editor that doesn't cost like a professional tool. You can resize your images, crop them (maybe cut your irritating brother-in-law out of the family photo), print them, and get rid of those dreaded red eyes.

LightBox Free is a Windows app, and runs under Windows 2000 or later. If you really like it, they also have a paid version with even more features.

Download LightBox Free

FreeMeter Bandwidth Monitor For Windows

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

screenshot of FreeMeter

Do you upload and download a lot of files? Whether you're downloading the latest free apps, uploading your web pages, or just like to watch the lights flash on your router, there's a lot of bits and bytes moving to- and from your system. Did you ever wonder exactly how many there were?

FreeMeter is a free meter (catchy name, huh?) that lets you see what kind of traffic you're generating. It sits in your System Tray, keeping an eye on what's going on. Want more detail? Pop it open and take a look either graphically or with numbers in a table. In addition, it's got several useful tools bundled together with it including ping, traceroute, and email notifiers. You can watch traffic on a number of different interfaces (Ethernet, wireless, FireWire, etc.) so you can get a true picture of where your bandwidth is going.

FreeMeter is a free Windows application. It requires WinXP or later, and version 2 of the .NET Framework.

Download FreeMeter

Debt Reduction Snowball Calculator

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

screenshot of Debt Reduction Snowball Calculator

There's a story making the rounds regarding a supposedly ancient Chinese proverb that translates roughly "May you live in interesting times." While it may be questionable whether such a saying actually represents ancient wisdom, it does give one pause.

Our times are certainly interesting. With all the stories in the news about the financial markets, changes in the cost of living, and the home mortgage crisis, we probably qualify as being in those "interesting times."

How interesting are your times? Sometimes in spite of our best efforts, we can find ourselves overextended financially. Whether it's credit cards or other debt, sometimes it piles up and frankly looks like we're never going to be able to pay it all off. What we need is a plan.

The Debt Reduction Snowball Calculator might be the start of a plan for you. A free spreadsheet download, the Calculator can help you to get a handle on your debt, and to come up with a plan for paying it off. Enter your financial data and see how your payments will help you to retire your debt. In addition, you can generate a payment schedule, so you can see in black and white how you're going to succeed.

Debt Reduction Snowball Calculator is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. It doesn't require an installer, and it doesn't have any macros, so you don't have to worry about any macro viruses sneaking onto your system. It should be compatible with any system running Excel 2002 or later, or other applications that can open XLS files.

Download Debt Reduction Snowball Calculator