Archive for February, 2009

LinkBlip – did they click on your link?

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of LinkBlip

You know the drill. You've just found the most interesting, most cool, most important site on the whole World Wide Web. You grab the URL and email it off to your buddy or business associate with a strong "you've got to read this!" recommendation. And then you wait. And wait. And wait some more. Have they read it? Will they read it? Do you need to send them a reminder?

LinkBlip can let you know whether your recipient has taken a look at the page you've recommended. Go to the LinkBlip site and enter your important URL, and they'll give you back a link you can email to your associate. When they click on that link, they go to the page you've pointed out to them, but in addition, you'll also get an email back from LinkBlip letting you know that the link has been followed. No more wondering "did they, or didn't they?"

Along with the fact that you recipient has followed your link, you'll be told where they were located, based on their computer's IP address.

LinkBlip is a free service, and should be compatible with most modern web browsers and email programs.

Download LinkBlip

ReminderFox helps you remember appointments and "to do" items

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of ReminderFox

There are lots of ways to remind yourself of important appointments and "to do" items. You can use expensive leather-bound planners; you can set up elaborate systems with Outlook; or maybe even tie a string around your finger. Or you can use your web browser.

ReminderFox is an add-on for the Firefox browser. Like most other extensions for your favorite web browser, it's easy to install this tool. Once you're set up, you'll see a little "bow" added to Firefox's status bar (maybe it's a string to tie around your finger?). Move your mouse over it, and you'll get a tooltip-style listing of reminders and to do items you've got scheduled. Click on it, and you can add or edit new items. It supports recurring or single-time events, and lets you set alarms to remind you of what you need to be doing. You can add extensive notes to your entries, so you don't have to keep the "when" in ReminderFox, while the "what" lives somewhere else.

ReminderFox works with virtually any version of Firefox, so it's equally at home on Linux, Mac, or Windows systems. It's also compatible with many other Mozilla-based apps like Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, and Sunbird.

Download ReminderFox

Shut down cleanly with DShutdown

Monday, February 16th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of DShutdown

How many different ways can you say "shut down" to your Windows computer? Whether it's logging the current user off, going into standby or hibernation, rebooting, or really shutting down and turning the power off, they're all different flavors of "shut down". If you're sitting at the console, it's easy for you to do any or all of these things. If you're not, it's much more complicated.

You may be shutting a machine down remotely, where you don't have access to all the nice GUI tools Windows makes available for this task. Or you may be running a script or other automated process, and you want things to shut down after you've created a big archive, or backed up your system, or even completed a big download, even though you went home hours ago. All this and more can be accomplished with DShutdown.

With an easy-to-configure set of options, DShutdown lets you choose just the type of shutdown you want to perform for your system. It makes sure that shutdowns are all "clean" so that you don't mess up your system by just "pulling the plug" before everything's been put away.

DShutdown is a free Windows tool. It should run on any Win32 system.

Download DShutdown

Create on-screen reminders with MemoCactus

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of MemoCactus

Everybody's got their own favorite way to keep track of stuff. Some folks write in journals, others scribble on legal pads, and there's always the sticky note route. We've found another path to take, that lets you jot your own little "note to self" musings on your computer screen.

MemoCactus (not quite sure where the name came from) lets you enter and edit notes on your system, and then displays them right on your monitor. Rather than being confined to a virtual sticky note, the text of your notes "floats" on the screen itself, superimposed on top of all the other stuff showing on your display. This means that, like the trusty PostIt hanging on the side of your monitor, you'll be able to see your note at all times.

It's easy to add notes to MemoCactus. Just type your text, choose the font and color, and you're back to work again. You can create multiple notes, and you can tweak ones you've already created. Position them on your screen wherever it make sense, so they don't get in the way, but you don't find yourself avoiding them either.

MemoCactus is a Windows application. It runs under WinXP or Vista, and requires the .NET Framework as well.

Download MemoCactus

PDF creation tool

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Tomahawk PDF+

PDF files are everywhere. The Portable Document Format file has become the de facto standard for sharing files between platforms, and for making publications available on the Web. While the fine folks at Adobe would love for you to buy their full-blown Acrobat application to create PDFs, you don't have to spend that kind of cash to get very good results.

There are many desktop applications that let you save documents as PDF files. There are also many web sites that make that kind of functionality available to you online. Macs even have it built into the operating system. Tomahawk PDF+ goes one better than any of these.

Rather than having to create your document in another application and then go through some gyrations to convert it into a PDF, Tomahawk PDF+ includes a WYSIWYG editor that lets you create files and save them directly into PDF format. In addition, you can tweak your document's security settings, so that folks can look at your content—text and images—but can't copy it to use for their own purposes, protecting all your hard work.

Tomahawk PDF+ is free for personal use. It should run on any Win32 platform.

Download Tomahawk PDF+

Thumbnail Generator

Friday, February 13th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of TNGen

Got a bunch of JPEG images to organize or otherwise deal with? TNGen is a free tool that can give you a hand.

TNGen (Thumbnail Generator) will take your directory full of .jpg images and create thumbnails for you. Now instead of just a pile of files with random alphanumeric names, you can see the pretty pictures those files contain. Once you've got your thumbnails, you can start to get organized.

Along with generating the thumbnails themselves, TNGen will create an HTML gallery page for you, or even a slide show that lets you step through your images. You can adjust the settings for your thumbnails: assign height and width values that make sense for your use, You can even resize your originals at the same time if you want.

TNGen likes to work with a whole directory of files at a time; drag and drop a folder into the app, or browse to the directory you want. Choose names for your newly created thumbnail images, so you can keep track of who's who.

TNGen is a free Windows application. It should run on any Win32 platform from Win95 on up.

Download TNGen

Clean your DOCs

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of DocScrubber

You've just finished a letter to mom, or a report for your boss, or a maybe a nastygram to send to that broker who had you invest heavily in pork bellies. If you wrote that letter in Microsoft Word and you're sending off a DOC file, you may want to stop for just a minute.

DOC files can contain more that just the document that you can see in looking at the page. There's all kinds of other stuff in there as well, and some of it might be more than a little embarrassing to you.

When you save a DOC in Word, you're also saving a history of revisions to that document, your name, the number of changes you've made, how long you worked on it, and a lot more. Sometimes none of that is going to mean anything, but other times you might not want you recipient to know everything about the history of your document.

DocScrubber is a tool that can help you to clean up your Word DOCs. It can list all the meta information that's being carried around by your file, and let you remove it if you'd like. It works on individual files, or you can choose multiple files, or even entire folders to clean up. Now nobody will ever know that you originally addressed your letter to "You Doofus" instead of "Dear Mr. Jones."

DocScrubber is a Windows application. It's free for all users, and runs under all versions from Windows 98 on up.

Download DocScrubber

Online OCR tool

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of OCR Terminal

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. What if that picture actually contains a thousand words? If you plan to do anything useful with those words, you'll need an optical character recognition (OCR) tool to help change the pixels into text.

Even though you can "read" what it says in your image file, your computer's not quite so well equipped. With an OCR tool, the shapes on your screen are translated into text that your word processor or spread sheet tool can actually use. There are OCR tools that you can buy, and even some that you can grab for free. OCR Terminal is an online service that brings the wonders of OCR technology to you without your having to do anything, other than sign up for a free account.

Once you're set up, all you need to do is to upload your image file, including PDF files. They'll do the hard work of converting your text and returning it to you, as an unformatted TXT file, or an RTF file that attempts to maintain some of the original formatting. Or if you prefer, they will email you the results instead.

Whenever you use an OCR tool, you need to remember that you'll want to do a sanity check on that text that's returned to you, since there are a lot of complications that can come up in the recognition and translation process. but face it: proofreading your text is a lot faster—and easier—than having to type it all in, one character at a time.

OCR Terminal is a free online service. If you've got a recent web browser, you can probably use it.

Download OCR Terminal

High-powered calculator

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of SpeedCrunch

Most modern computer operating systems include a calculator application as part of their built-in suite of tools. But few of them include a calculator like SpeedCrunch.

Not just a replacement for your system's built-in calculator, SpeedCrunch has more to offer than your desktop 10-key as well. Along with doing simple math, you can throw much more complex problems at it, and walk away satisfied.

Rather than having to figure out how to enter your numbers—do I hit the "+" key before or after the numbers I want to add—or working with an unfamiliar format like RPN, literally all you have to do is to type your equation into the app, and it returns your answer. It supports variables, so it's easy to carry a result from one calculation over into the next. If you're entering complicated equations with multiple levels of grouping, its syntax highlighting will help you to see whether your parentheses match your logic.

SpeedCrunch supports several keyboard shortcuts that make data entry and export easy. And it keeps a list of the last hundred expressions you've entered, so you don't have to re-type complicated equations that you've already input.

SpeedCrunch is available for several flavors of Linux. It's also available as a Universal Binary for your OS X Mac, and runs under 10.3 or later. And there's a Win version as well, that runs under Windows NT/2000 and newer.

Download SpeedCrunch

Bonus: Free Valentine’s Day Printables

Monday, February 9th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Free Valentine's Day Printables

It's nearly Valentine's Day again: Cupid's sharpened-up his arrows and the candy stores and florists are working at warp speed. Time to check out some free Valentine's Day printables.

Grab a free Valentine's Day card for your sweetie, or maybe a romantic certificate for the world's best wife, husband, girlfriend, or boyfriend. Valentine's gift tags add something special to your tokens of affection–they go very nicely with a new ring, necklace, or even a fishing reel, you romantic! Planning a holiday get-together? Let everybody know they're in the right place with a Valentine's banner; set your table with Valentine's Day place cards; and save your favorite recipes on Valentine-themed recipe cards. You can even help everybody at work get into the spirit of the day with a Valentine-themed fax cover sheet. And to keep the little ones busy, there's always free Valentine's Day coloring pages.

All of these Valentine's Day printables are available for free, so download all you want. And have a Happy Valentine's Day!