Archive for February, 2009

Clean up your desktop clutter with Fences

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Fences

According to Robert Frost in his poem "Mending Wall," "good fences make good neighbors." Indeed, they make for a more organized computer desktop as well.

Fences is a free application to help you rein in the clutter on your computer's desktop. Rather than just leaving you to your own devices in terms of dumping file and applications willy-nilly across your Windows desktop, Fences helps you to organize these files in ways that make sense to you. By grouping related items together, you can work faster and smarter.

Once you've fenced-in a pile of icons, you can now resize and move them all as a unit. Group them together by file type, or keep all the pieces of a project together. And with a quick click of the mouse, you can make your fenced-in apps and documents disappear from your desktop. Do you remember what your desktop wallpaper even looks like?

Fences is a Windows app. It runs on XP or Vista, and even claims to be Windows 7-compatible.

Download Fences

Chandler: The Note-to-Self Organizer

Friday, February 27th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Chandler

Chandler calls itself a "note-to-self" organizer. At its simplest, it's a desktop app that lets you keep track of calendaring, tasks, and your own notes. Color coding helps you to see what's happening "at a glance". Alarms help you to keep track of your important appointments and meetings. It recognizes that notes and appointments can be tied closely together—think meeting agenda items—and lets you manage them both with the same tool. Use it as your own integrated personal organizer, and you're in good shape.

But it also is built to allow collaboration through its acting as a web application, and then adds a file-sharing and back-up service. Now everybody on the team has access to the notes and calendars, so it's easy for everybody to be on the same page all the time.

Chandler is an open source application. It runs under Linux, OS X, and Windows.

Download Chandler

Check your boot speed with BootRacer

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of BootRacer

How long does it take your Windows machine to boot up? Whether your system's super fast or super slow, BootRacer can help to put a number to your computer's start up speed. As you tweak and fiddle with your system to speed it up, how can you tell if it's faster? If you have to sit there with a stopwatch and time it, you just may lose your mind. If you put BootRacer on the task, you can let it watch your startups for you instead.

BootRacer automatically checks—and logs—your system startup time each and every time you boot your system. It has a small footprint in terms of its required memory and the disk space it consumes, so your system won't take a hit from the tool itself. It keeps an eye on both "time to log-on" and "time to desktop", so you will have real-world numbers to look at for these two important indices.

BootRacer is free for non-commercial use. It's a Windows app that requires WinXP or later.

Download BootRacer

A Useful PDF for Planning

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of PDFplannerPro

No matter how many fancy automated solutions you may have to keep track of where you need to be and who you need to see, sometimes there's just no substitute for a piece of paper with names and addresses and times on it. What you need is a planner, an organizer, a date book. To get that essential tool, you can go to your local office supply mega-mart and spend a pretty penny, or you can download your own PDFplannerPro.

PDFplannerPro is a big PDF file that contains a number of different pages for your paper planner, including calendars, to do lists, an expense sheet, and more. You can add your own information and comments to the individual pages, and then print out just the pieces you need. You'll have the perfect customized date book, because you made it yourself.

Since PDFplannerPro is a PDF document, all you need is a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader. That means that you can use it with Linux, Macintosh, and Windows systems.

Download PDFplannerPro

Make it easy to change system icons

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of LiteIcon

We each have our own preferences when it comes to working with our computers. Do you leave stuff scattered across your desktop, or do you put everything away, all nice and neat? Do you prefer to look at Finder windows as Icons? Lists? What about Columns? Yes, everybody has their own opinion on how things ought to be. After all, that's why they make chocolate and vanilla, right?

If you're really going to trick-out your Mac just the way you want it, you may have occasion to want to change the icons for some of your system apps. A super simple way to accomplish this task is with LiteIcon.

LiteIcon is a free tool for your OS X Mac. Just fire it up, drag your new icon onto the one you want to change. Click "Apply Changes" and restart Finder, and you've got your own better-than-new system icons.

LiteIcon runs under both Tiger (10.4) and Leopard (10.5) versions of Mac's OS X.

Download LiteIcon

TUGZip archive tool

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of TUGZip

Where would we be without compressed archive files? They simplify organization of your documents by taking anywhere from a few to thousands of documents and putting them together in nice, neat bundles. Add to that the fact that these are generally then compressed, and you've got not only convenience, but also a substantial savings in terms of the space that your files take up.

The bad news is that there are so many different formats of these archive files, that some day you will run across a format that you've not seen before, and may well have a problem opening it. Or the converse may also be true: you need to supply somebody with a specifically-formatted archive, when you don't have the right tool to create it.

TUGZip is a kind of Swiss Army Knife for archiving files. It can create and extract from many of the most popular formats. In addition, it can create and extract several disk image formats as well. It also integrates into Windows Explorer, so that you can right-click files and folders to create archives.

TUGZip is a free Windows application.

Download TUGZip

Zionworx Church Presentation Software

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Zionworx Church Presentation Software

We use automation in so many areas of our lives. Web, email, PowerPoint—the list does go on. But in most cases, all of that gets forgotten on Sunday morning. Most church services depend on hymnals and worship books, photocopied service bulletins and handouts. Is there a way to bring the automation we've come to expect in the Board Room into the Sanctuary?

Zionworx is a tool for multimedia presentations in church. It is designed primarily for displaying song lyrics to congregations and other large groups, With its extensive integrated song database, you can focus on the formatting and appearance, rather than on getting the words right. It also supports PowerPoint presentations, so you can make those an integral part of your program. You save paper, while keeping everyone's eyes looking forward, instead of down at a pile of printed pages.

Zionworx is a free Windows application. It runs under Windows 98 or later. To display lyrics you'll need a computer with two video outputs (one for your local monitor and one for display) and a multimedia projector, television, or large-screen display.

Download Zionworx Church Presentation Software

Grab a free disposable email address

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of 10 Minute Mail

For access to lots of online services, or to post to many blogs, you've got to register and supply an email address. If you already get enough email spam, you probably aren't in the market to add to that total. That means that in many cases what you need is a "disposable" email address. These are real email addresses that you use once—maybe to register for a service like this—and then never use again.

10 Minute Mail is a free service that lets you do just that. Just go to their site, click on the "Get my 10 Minute Mail e-mail address" link, and you've got an email address that will be valid for exactly ten minutes. That should be enough time for you to use to sign up for the service you're joining, receive the confirming email back to you, and to finally send the "yes, it's really me" message back to the website. And then the address just goes away. If you know you're going to type slowly, you can add an additional ten minutes to the life of the email account, but the point is this: once you've used it, you don't have to worry about it any more, and you won't add the to burden of your email spam filter by receiving that much more "stuff" from your new best friend.

10 Minute Email is a free online service, and should be compatible with most recent web browsers.

Download 10 Minute Mail

E-book helps you tighten security on Windows systems

Friday, February 20th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of How to Secure Windows and Your Privacy E-book

Microsoft Windows is a handy place to live. It's widely available, everybody writes apps for it, and there is a lot of support available out there. That's all good. But there is a darker side to the O/S from Redmond as well.

Your system likes to keep track of where you've been, and what you've produced. Your Word and Excel documents can be traced back to you. Your web browsing history is no secret. Indeed, there are a whole host of possible security issues that come along with Windows. Maybe it's time to see what you can do to tighten up your security.

How to Secure Windows and Your Privacy is a free downloadable e-book. In simple and straightforward terms, the author explains what kinds of security threats you should guard against on your computer and small office/home office network. There are recommendations for no-cost online tools you can use, and free software you can install on your system that can help to tighten up the security of your system and make your computing safer.

How to Secure Windows and Your Privacy is a free download. You'll need to have a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader (version 5 or later) to read the e-book.

Download How to Secure Windows and Your Privacy E-book

Easily resize windows with Sizer

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Sizer

If you design web pages, you need to know what your pages look like at different resolutions. If you build desktop apps, you need to know how big your various dialog boxes are going to be. It can all get pretty complicated rather quickly. Sure, you can reconfigure the resolution of your display regularly, or try to guess how big your dialogs should be, but maybe there's a way you can reduce the guesswork and make the whole process just a little bit easier.

Sizer is a tool that lets you do just that. Move your mouse over the window you're interested in, until you get a "resize" cursor. Right-click on that, and you'll get a list of width-and-height combinations that you can apply to the window. Along with the predefined sizes, you can also add your own custom size combinations to Sizer. You can also add this functionality to the system menu you get when you click the application icon at the left end of any title bar. Sizer also lets you check out a window's current size, without your having to resize it.

Sizer is a Windows application. According to the author, it doesn't work with Vista.

Download Sizer