Archive for November, 2008

Browse Images with PhotoMesa

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

runs on Windows
screenshot of PhotoMesa

How many images do you have on your system? Whether you just have a digital camera, or you're up to your ears in websites you're building, you probably have a fair number of pictures to try to keep track of. "Try" is the operative term here—how do you keep track of all that stuff? An image browser like PhotoMesa may be what you're looking for.

PhotoMesa lets you browse photos and other digital images on your system. It will also go out and find them for you, no matter how deeply hidden they are in various folders on your system. It supports most popular image file formats, so you won't have to jump back and forth to some other tool to view your files.

The simple interface makes it easy to zoom in- and out on your pictures. You can mark them up with your own annotations to keep track of people and places in the photos, as well as categories to keep track of what's going on.

PhotoMesa is a free Windows application. It works on systems running Windows 2000 or later. Also required are version 1.1 or higher of the .NET Framework, as well as MDAC 2.6 (links to both are available on the publisher's site).

Download PhotoMesa

Examine your movies with VideoInspector

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

runs on Windows
screenshot of VideoInspector

Admit it—you've got a ton of video files on your computer. Going to YouTube several times a day just isn't enough—you've got to have those things on your system. But what happens when your movies start to act up? Where has the sound gone? Why won't this file or that one play on your system? Your big collection has just become a big pain in the neck.

VideoInspector is a tool that helps you to understand what you've got going on. With VideoInspector, you can check file integrity of your video files. See how long your movies are, what bitrate they're recorded in—both video and audio— and all the other vital statistics. It's easy to verify which codecs you need to play a given movie, and whether they're already on your system.

VideoInspector is a Windows application.

Download VideoInspector

Where does your website rank in the search engines?

Friday, November 28th, 2008

runs as Service
screenshot of Exactfactor

When you're trying to promote your website on the search engines, position is everything. The goal in search engine optimization is to get your pages to show up in Google and the other search engines as high up in the results as possible. After all, when somebody searches for "widgets" or "gadgets", if you're selling widgets and gadgets, you want to make sure that your site comes up at the top of those search results. Spending a lot to time Googling yourself, though, probably isn't the best use of your time. Maybe you need a tool that can take care of that for you.

You may want to check out Exactfactor, an online service that helps you stay on top of your search engine ranking. It's easy to enter your website URL, and even the site of a competitor, type in some keywords, and choose one, two, or three search engines to check out. Press the button, and you'll know in quick order just where you stand.

Along with running these queries, you can have this tool keep an eye on things for you over time. Sign up to get alerts when your site is up (or down) in the rankings, or even when you reach the coveted Page 1 position on Google.

Exactfactor is a free service, and should be compatible with most modern web browsers. You can run queries without even signing up, but if you want to receive alerts for status changes, you'll need to sign up for a free membership.

Download Exactfactor

Track system events and log files with BareTail

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

runs on Windows
screenshot of BareTail

Are you a UNIX guy (or gal) trapped in a Windows world? Do you find yourself missing your favorite command line utilities while you're working at your Windows box? Here's one you're bound to appreciate.

One of the more handy tools from the UNIX world is "tail". It's a slick little app that lets you look at the last several lines of a log file. Since log files are written chronologically, that means that you're looking at the most recent events that have been written to the log—the most recent pages accessed on your web site; the most recent download activity from your FTP server; the most recent hacking attempts on your network—pretty important stuff. Adding the "follow" option allows you to watch as the logs are updated in real time.

BareTail is the Windows equivalent of "tail -f" that allows you to track logs as they are updated. Rather than just a terminal app like its UNIX cousin, BareTail displays its output in a tabbed window, so you can watch multiple logs at once. User defined highlighting lets you focus your attention on the more important data that you want to follow. It's a compact app, so there's no installer necessary, which means that it doesn't leave fingerprints all over your system.

BareTail is a Windows application.

Download BareTail

Create complied Help systems with HelpNDoc

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

runs on Windows
screenshot of HelpNDoc

For several years, the movement among software developers has been away from printed documentation and toward online manuals and enhanced Help systems with new applications. Not only is it cheaper to produce these systems, since there are no expensive printing costs involved, but it also allows the documentation to be much more up-to-date. Instead of having to distribute out-of-date printed manuals, it's easy to in-line new Help files, and even make them available for download. Your latest changes are now there for everybody to use. HelpNDoc is a tool to help you create those Help systems.

While HelpNDoc is an advanced WYSIWYG word processor, it really shines when it comes to creating complied HTML Help systems. Rather than having to worry about the nuts and bolts of creating Help, you can focus on the content. HelpNDoc will take your expertise and package it up so that everybody will be able to use it.

HelpNDoc is free for personal use. It runs under any Windows system from Windows 95 up through Vista. It only requires a Pentium-class processor, and is perfectly happy with only 32MB or RAM.

Download HelpNDoc

Bonus: Free Thanksgiving Printables

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of  Free Thanksgiving Printables

Thanksgiving is upon us again. Time to take a few moments to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. And then it's time to eat turkey! While you're waiting for the old bird to cook, why not go take a peek at these free Thanksgiving printables? Keep the kids entertained with Thanksgiving theme printable coloring pages. Or maybe it's time to put your favorite holiday recipes on Thanksgiving recipe cards. Add some holiday spirit to your invitations and other holiday correspendence with printable Thanksgiving letterhead, or an amusing Thanksgiving-themed fax cover sheet. And finally, return thanks to your hosts with a printable Thank You Certificate.

Don't be a turkey–each of these is available for free, so you can download all you want. And have a Happy Turkey Day!

See what your system is doing with MenuMeters

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

runs on Mac
screenshot of MenuMeters

Your Mac is more than just a pretty face. There's serious computing horsepower under the hood there. But how do you know what's really going on inside? You ought to check out MenuMeters.

MenuMeters lets you display stats about CPU usage, disk activity, memory consumption, and network activity on your Menu Bar. You get to pick the items you want to track, and even choose how they're displayed. Choices vary by the items you're tracking, but include thermometer, line graph, and pie chart displays, as well as numeric data (upload and download rates), and so forth. In addition, you can click on the items displayed in the Menu Bar to drill down further—examine CPU up-time, for example.

You won't have to wonder any more whether your system is busy "thinking" or has gone south when you see the "100%" displayed on the Menu Bar for CPU usage.

MenuMeters is a Mac application. It runs under OS X (10.2 or later).

Download MenuMeters

Make better choices with Decision Oven

Monday, November 24th, 2008

runs on Windows
screenshot of Decision Oven

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Some decisions are pretty cut-and-dried: if it's cold and windy outside, then wear a coat. No problem there. Other decisions aren't necessarily so clear cut: Do I accept that new job offer? Which car should I choose? Do I want to go to school here or there?

You can always ask everybody their opinion, but when it's all said and done, most of them are just opinions. And just because they suggest a course of action doesn't mean that it's the best way for you to go. Maybe it's time to break out the Magic 8 Ball and ask it what to do.

Or maybe you'll have better luck with Decision Oven. This tool can help you to objectively weigh your choices to try to make the best possible decision. Enter your needs and wants. Add the alternatives you may be weighing. Push the button and see how the possibilities line up. Now of course you need to watch for the potential "garbage in, garbage out" problem, but if you feed good data to the program, you'll get some objective help in evaluating which way to go.

As a sanity check, remember that these guys aren't responsible for the choices that you make, and bear in mind that Decision Oven is a beta-level product. You make the decisions, but they help you to weigh the possibilities.

Decision Oven is a Windows application.

Download Decision Oven

Free Dot To Dot Puzzles

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Free Dot To Dot Puzzles

One of our favorite activities as a kid was working on dot-to-dot puzzles. These activities always seemed extra satisfying, because you were really contributing to the creative process. Some of us weren't gifted with extraordinary drawing talent, so it wasn't so easy to create a picture from scratch, but hey, anybody can draw a straight line (more or less). Dot to dot activities have something for everybody—you get to solve a puzzle, you get to color it in, and there's always the challenge of trying to visualize what all these dots will look like when they're connected. They even contribute to the general discourse: somebody who can figure out how to associate one idea with another is said to "connect the dots."

Free Dot To Dot Puzzles has 125 free downloadable dot to dot puzzles. You can choose puzzles that include animals, buildings, transportation, and more from nearly a dozen different categories. They're all available for free, and all you need is a copy of Adobe Acrobat or any other application that lets you open and print PDF files, and you're in business.

You can download individual puzzles and activities for free, or If you're hopelessly enthralled by dot to dots, you can download the entire collection all at once for $9.00.

Download Free Dot To Dot Puzzles

Edit text and code easily

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

screenshot of HTML-Kit

There are a bunch of different text editor applications out there, each one bringing its unique attributes to the party. HTML-Kit is a full-blown editor for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and just about any other type of text file. Part of its power comes from its support of over 400 plug-ins, adding tons of additional features. Need to edit Perl, PHP, ASP, or Ruby files? No problem.

Along with editing just about any plain-text files, HTML-Kit includes its own "shorthand", to help you increase your productivity. Type just a few characters to generate chunks of code. Code-folding lets you collapse and expand what you see onscreen, helping you to focus on the code you're editing right now, and not letting you get bogged down in all the rest of the file. Batch Tidy lets you run the HTML Tidy plugin on multiple files at once, to make sure you're writing standards-compliant code.

HTML-Kit is a free download Windows application.

Download HTML-Kit