Archive for October, 2008

Personalize and customize your desktop icons

Friday, October 31st, 2008

screenshot of Iconoid

Your computer is important to you, right? Whether it's for business or play, you want your system to be set up "just right." You've got the right apps; you've even chosen a desktop wallpaper design that suits your personality: a basket full of puppies, a snow-covered mountain, or maybe even a utilitarian solid black. The point is that in some ways your machine is an extension of your own ego, and what you're trying to accomplish with it.

Why stop here though? Take a look at the icons scattered across your desktop. Whether there are just a couple of them, or you've go 'em piled onto every available pixel, wouldn't it be nice to have some control over their appearance as well? To take a crack at this, give Iconoid a try.

Iconoid is a tool that helps you take control over your desktop icons. You can tweak the text and background colors of your icons and their text to make them easier to spot, or to blend in better with your wallpaper. For that matter, you can hide them all so that you can gaze longingly at your puppies or mountain.

Another great feature will come into play if you design web pages. If you have to change screen resolutions a lot, you know that it totally messes up the layout of your desktop icons. With Iconoid, you can save your layouts, so you don't need to spend the next half hour re-adjusting your desktop after you change resolutions.

Iconoid is available as a free download. The publisher calls this distribution model "sillyware' and asks that you send them "something silly." It runs on Windows systems, and should be compatible with Win98 and later.

Download Iconoid

Find out who owns that open file

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

screenshot of OpenedFilesView

You know you've seen this: you go to move a file, or delete it, or maybe you're trying to dismount a remote volume. You click the button, and Windows throws the big red X up in your face and tells you there has been a "sharing violation." Now you know your Mama taught you to share, so it can't be you, but nevertheless, you can't complete your task. So who is using that file, and why can't you close it?

OpenedFilesView is a tool to help you figure out who's responsible, and to take care of the problem. Fire it up, and it will list all currently open files on your system. Scroll through the list, find your file, and you'll see who the culprit is. Now you can go and close the file with the app, or you can even terminate its process from OpenedFilesView, remembering that your system's stability may take a hit. It's also available from the Windows Explorer's "context menu" (right-click menu). You can configure it so that you only see local as opposed to network files.

OpenedFilesView is a Windows tool. It runs under Windows 2000 or later, and you'll need Administrator privileges.

Download OpenedFilesView

Bonus: Free Halloween Printables

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

screenshot of Free Halloween Printables

It's almost here: Halloween, the spookiest day of the year! If you and your little ghosts and goblins are trying to get into the mood, you'll want to check out these free Halloween printables. If coloring is your thing, how about some Halloween Printable Coloring Pages and Halloween Free Coloring Sheets? Choose from scary witches, spooky bats, and more. Maybe it's time to write your annual letter to The Great Pumpkin? Nothing could be better than some Halloween Letterhead. Or how about some Halloween Gift Tags? A Jack-o'-Lantern or haunted house may add just the right touch to your spooky gift.

Don't be afraid, though—these are all available for free, so you can download all you want. It's kind of like Trick-or-Treat-ing from your computer.

Control your system via email

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

screenshot of RemoteByMail

Certainly you've run into this situation before: you are over here, and your computer is over there. We're not talking about you and your system being across the room from one another, although that might apply too. We're thinking something more along the lines of your computer is at home in New York, but you're at a meeting in California. Now that's serious "over there." Now that you and your computer are physically remote from one another, you decide that there's something you need to do on or to get from that remote system. That's where the trouble starts.

There are several remote control tools out there. Some of them will cost you a pretty penny. Others are available at a much more modest cost, but there may be configuration headaches involved in getting them up and running, whether it's with the app itself, or tweaking firewalls between here and there. What if there were a solution that didn't require any of that?

RemoteByMail is an interesting tool that lets you control your machine remotely via email. You've already got email on your system, and there's no problem with its working in your computing environment. With RemoteByMail, you send an email to your computer, and within minutes, it will respond to your request. You can grab files or folders, or even run applications on your system. Did you forget an important file? No problem—it's sent to you. Do you need to run a backup on your hard drive? Done.

RemoteByMail is a free Windows application.

Download RemoteByMail

Cover Letter Examples and Resources

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

screenshot of Cover Letters

Whether you're submitting your resume for that great job you found, or you're applying for a grant or scholarship, or you're sending in your college application, you need something else to go with it: a cover letter. You have to let the folks to whom you are submitting your application or proposal know who you are, what you're applying for, and list what you are actually submitting. Your resume is no help if you don't tell your prospective employer what specific job you are applying for; your grant application has to let the institution you are applying to know what you are trying to accomplish.

The Cover Letter Examples site includes dozens of cover letter examples that you can download, edit, and submit along with your application materials. Choose from cover letters appropriate for employment, academic situations, sales proposals, contest entries, and more. Along with Microsoft Word-compatible DOC file cover letter templates, there are also resources including cover letter etiquette (don't send a cover letter with your resume to a prospective employer on your current employer's letterhead), lists of "action words" to use in cover letters, and an all-important list of "don'ts".

These Cover Letters are all available for free download. They require Microsoft Word, a GoogleDocs account, or another compatible word processing application that can read and write DOC files.

Download Cover Letters

Zoho online productivity and collaboration suite

Monday, October 27th, 2008

screenshot of Zoho

Online productivity applications are a great breakthrough. They're cheap, easy-to-use, and they're compatible with many platforms. Google Docs is a widely used platform for word processing and spreadsheets. But there are others out there.

Zoho is a suite of tools that includes productivity and collaboration applications, Along with the word processor and spreadsheet apps you would expect, they've also got email, a presentation tool, a wiki, online organizer, and more. Along with these unlimited tools, they're got more business tools that do carry some limitations: a CRM system that supports 3 users, a project management tool that can help you oversee one project at a time, and others.

You can create documents online, or you can upload files from your local system—browse your hard drive, or even email them as attachments. If you're without Internet access, you can still work on your docs and sync them up later. And of course, you can share documents to collaborate with friends or co-workers.

Zoho is a free service. It should work with most systems running a modern web browser.

Download Zoho

Everything's easier to see with Magical Glass

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

screenshot of Magical Glass

Did you ever notice that as we get older, the fonts they use in applications and web pages get smaller? As we progress along the inevitable continuum from "naked" eye to reading glasses to bifocals to magnifying glass, it gets to be more of a challenge to see what is being displayed on our monitors. Or maybe you're a graphics person. You're creating (or editing) the perfect image, and you really need to tweak it on a pixel-by-pixel basis.

Either way, you need to be able to pump up the size of the image you're seeing on-screen. But you don't want to just dial the whole image up to 1000%, because then you lose the context of what you're looking at. What you need is the onscreen version of that magnifying glass.

Magical Glass may be the solution you're looking for. Like with your regular magnifying glass, this "virtual" magnifying glass lets you zoom in on just the portion of the screen you're really interested in, but without totally losing the surrounding screen area. Use it to pump up the "fine print" at the bottom of the page, or drill down to the exact pixels you need to adjust in your image. And it doesn't get in your way: Magical Glass just sits there in the System Tray until you call it up with a hotkey.

Magical Glass is a Windows app. It's compatible with systems running Windows 2000 or later. They've also got a down-rev version that works with Win9x, ME, and NT.

Download Magical Glass

FREESCO brings your tired old computer back to life

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

screenshot of FREESCO

What do you do with a garage full of old computers? With the rapid addition of new features to user applications and operating systems, it generally doesn't take too long for your hot new computer to become yesterday's news. Whether it's technological breakthroughs or planned obsolescence, your hardware just may not cut the mustard with today's latest and greatest tools. It seems a shame to just throw this stuff out—in an ecologically-responsible way, of course—when there are still a lot of clock cycles left in them.

One way to recycle old computers is to use them as servers for various low-overhead Linux or other *NIX platforms. Whether it's as a NAT router and firewall, a web- or mail server, an FTP platform, or any of dozens of other uses, your old system probably still has the horsepower to be used in ways that do enhance your productivity.

FREESCO is an open source solution that lets you bring your old box back to life. Computers with a little as a '486 processor and 12MB of RAM can be used to run a router for your broadband or dial-up connection, a nameserver, SSH server, print server, and more. It supports up to ten network cards, so you can build a pretty complex network here. You can run it from a floppy, a RAM disk, or install it to your hard drive.

FREESCO is a free download.

Download FREESCO

Updatestar keeps your applications up to date

Friday, October 24th, 2008

screenshot of Updatestar

Sometimes it seem like you can't turn around without some new version of your favorite tool being released. Whether or not you're content with yesterday's version, there's some developer out there creating content that requires that newest version, and you know you need that content. You could spend your whole life digging around, looking for updates to your apps. Or you could use a tool like Updatestar.

Updatestar is billed as a "software search engine". Its raison d'ĂȘtre is to keep an eye on available updates, so you can keep an eye on your work. Rather than digging through a zillion pages on the web, just go to the Updatestar website, enter the name of your app, and get a link to the latest and greatest version. Or download the Updatestar desktop app to your machine, and let it search for you automatically.

The Updatestar website is compatible with most systems running a modern web browser. The desktop app requires Windows 2000/XP/Vista.

Download Updatestar

Notepad 2008 adds GUI to text editor app

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

screenshot of Notepad 2008

Sometimes you just have to have a text editor. No formatting, just the facts, ma'am. Maybe you're building a web page; you might be tweaking a line of code in your latest app; or you're plowing through some log files. You don't want formatting, you just want plain-old ASCII text. Just because you want no-frill, no-nonsense text doesn't mean you want to go out there with just a clay tablet and stylus though.

Windows Notepad lets you edit text-as-text, but it's not much beyond the clay tablet we mentioned above. It seems like you ought to be able to combine the basic text editing facility with a slightly friendlier interface. Notepad 2008 may be what you're looking for here.

Sure, it's a text editor, but its application window includes a "ribbon", that little toolbar that helps make apps more useable. Want to create a new document? Click on the "new" button. Want to search or replace? Just click the button. You don't have to dig through menus to get done what you need to do. Notepad 2008 also includes a tabbed interface, so you can easily jump between multiple open documents.

Notepad 2008 is a free Windows application. It's compatible with systems running XP and Vista.

Download Notepad 2008