Archive for March, 2009

Sync your Macs with Fruux

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of Fruux

Do you use multiple Macs? Maybe you've got an iMac at home, a Mac Pro on your desktop, and a MacBook everywhere in between. You've got Macs coming out your ears.

But how do you keep them all in sync with one another? You've got bookmarks in your browser; you've got important dates and meetings in iCal, and your address book is your lifeline to the world. Just because you added a new meeting at work doesn't mean that your home system knows about it. You need to synchronize your systems, so you always have access to schedule and contact information.

Fruux is a tool that lets you do just that. It's a System Preference Pane that helps you to sort everything all out. Now when you add a new meeting at work or a new email address at home, all your computers will be updated. It's even smart enough to figure out what to do when you change an item on two different systems—maybe edits on your address book from two different locations. Along with the current functionality, they're promising to add preference syncing and a bunch of other goodies in the not-too-distant future.

Fruux is a Mac application. It runs under OS X 10.5.6 and later.

Download Fruux

Free registry cleaner

Monday, March 30th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Wise Registry Cleaner

If your Windows computer had a brain, it would be the Registry. Tucked away in here is all the information that your system needs to know that it's a computer, and not just a door stop. The Registry keeps track of which types of files belong to which applications, which printers your system has available, how it behaves on your network, and about a zillion other things.

As you use your system, more and more bits and pieces of information get tucked away in the Registry—you add apps to your system, you get a new printer, new users are added, and so on. After a while your once pristine Registry gets full of "stuff", and it doesn't always work and play well together. Like a brand new baby, who enters life so clean and pure, and later morphs into the moody teenager, as your system continues to run, it tends to get bogged down with its experiences, and it may no longer be on its best behavior.

Wise Registry Cleaner is a tool that can help you to give your system a tune-up. It helps you get rid of all the extra junk—maybe leftovers from a long-since-removed application, or pieces of a botched install. Just turn this tool loose on your system, and it will dig through and find all the junk that may be bogging your system down. Before it does anything drastic, it will present you with a list of what it found, and ask you to confirm any tweaks or deletions that it wants to perform. In the interest of safety, it has a built-in backup facility, so that if you do remove something you shouldn't have, you'll be able to get it back with a minimum of hassle.

Wise Registry Cleaner is a Windows application. It'll run on just about any Windows system from Win98 on up, including 64-bit versions of XP and Vista.

Download Wise Registry Cleaner

Use The Pencil Project for diagrams and prototyping

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of The Pencil Project

The Pencil Project is an interesting tool that lets users easily create diagrams. It's available as a standalone application for Windows and *NIX systems, or as an add-on for version 3 of the Firefox web browser.

With a set of built-in stencils, it's easy to get started on your project. Whether you're diagramming a work flow, or prototyping your next web page or desktop application, you can add your own objects to the items supplied with the tool. You've got access to images of all the native controls from your system, so you can build application prototypes that really look like how the finished product will appear. Manipulate all the onscreen components with align, rotate, resize functionality, and more. Add in a background image, and manipulate text onscreen. And when you're done, you can export your whole project to PNGs, so you can pack them up and take them with you.

You may want to take The Pencil Project out for a spin the next time you're building the next killer app.

Download The Pencil Project

Add a mail server to your system

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Free SMTP Server

When you send an email, you are employing the services of an SMTP server. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is the standard for sending mail across the Internet. Typically you use a server provided by your Internet service provider for this important function, although if you run your own network, you may have your own SMTP server already.

Free SMTP Server lets you put a mail-sending server on your computer. This could be especially helpful on a laptop if you travel around a lot and may plug-in to a lot of different networks which may- or may not be interested in passing your messages along to the big wide world out there. Running a server on your own machine means that, as long as you have Internet connectivity, you will be able to send mail. It also gives you at least a bit more privacy in your electronic communications, since your messages are now passing through one fewer servers out there in the world.

An important thing to remember, though, whenever you host your own mail server, is that you do increase the possibility that your machine may be co-opted into sending bad things out across the 'Net. You'll want to be extra careful that you have a good antivirus app and that your firewall is up and running, to help make sure that you and your machine don't become unwitting participants in various spamming exploits.

Free SMTP Server is a Windows app.

Download Free SMTP Server

SlipBox helps you keep track of all the bits and pieces

Friday, March 27th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of SlipBox

Whether it's a fist full of little sticky notes hanging off the side of your monitor or a bunch of scribbles on a legal pad, we've all got little bits and pieces that we have to try to keep track of. Maybe these little tidbits aren't the most important things out there, but they are important enough that we really don't want to lose them. The problem is, assuming that your little slips of paper don't get caught in a gust of wind blowing across your desktop, is that your chances of finding a particular little piece of paper are going to go way down as the number of those little notes increases.

SlipBox is a tool to help you organize all those little slips of paper. Now instead of jotting down a little note and losing it, you can type it into SlipBox and just file it away. Unlike your physical pile of paper, SlipBox incorporates power search algorithms that help you to find your notes again quickly. Not only can you search the content of your slips, but you can also add keywords to your slips, allowing you to quickly find what you're looking for. Keyword "scents" allow you to see relationships between related slips, helping you to stay even more on top of your data.

SlipBox is a tool for your Mac. It runs under OS X version 10.4 or later, although they do still have older versions if you are still on Panther (10.3).

Download SlipBox

Digsby multiprotocol IM client

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Digsby

How many different IM tools do you use? You've got friends on AIM, co-workers on MSN, mom uses ICQ, and on and on. You haven't got enough real estate on your desktop to have all these apps open at once, but you want to stay on top of things. Maybe you need to check out Digsby.

At its heart, Digsby is a multi-network IM client. You can interact with users on most popular messaging services. But it's also got functionality that goes beyond just instant messaging.

It can also help you stay on top of your email. It notifies you when you receive new mail, whether that's through your desktop POP account, your network's IMAP mail, or even several of the popular webmail tools, like GMail, Hotmail, and more. It even hooks into many social networking sites, to let you know what your friends are all up to.

Digsby is available to Windows users. They've got versions lined-up for Linux and Mac users as well, although those aren't available yet.

Download Digsby

Easy-to-use Windows backup application

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of FBackup

One of our favorite rants is on the importance of making good backups. It's not very flashy or exciting, but no amount of begging and pleading will bring back your data when you've got an app that goes crazy and trashes your documents, or (gasp!) your hard drive goes south and eats everything on your system.

FBackup tries to help making your backups as painless as possible. Using a wizard, you define your backup job—which files and directories you want to save, where you want to store them, and when you want the backup process to run—you can run it automatically or manually. You can choose to compress your backups as well, saving you storage space.

By default, backups are created on the same partition where your source files are coming from, but you can direct this tool to put them on a removable drive, or even to a remote location on your network. You can also designate actions to execute before- and after your backups. You can set a backup to run unattended at oh-dark-thirty in the morning, for example, and then log off or even shut down when the process is complete.

FBackup is a Windows application.

Download FBackup

Free Ruler screen measuring tool

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of Free Ruler

If you lay out web pages, or cobble together desktop apps, then you have at least a passing familiarity with GUI design. Putting all the various dialogs and controls together can be rather challenging, making sure they all fit on the screen and play well together. How big is that space? How much room is there left to work with?

Free Ruler is a free on-screen ruler that you can use to figure this all out. Reminiscent of a carpenter's square, it has both a horizontal and a vertical arm. Choose your units—pixels, picas, centimeters—and start measuring. Crank up the transparency of the rulers, and you can literally see through them; dial it back and you'll get opaque rulers that make it easy to see dimension markings against a busy background. Built-in calculators make it easy to convert from one set of units to another.

Free Ruler is, umm, free. It's a Mac application, and should run on just about any version of OS X.

Download Free Ruler

Minimize application windows into their title bar

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of WinRoll

There are all kinds of ways to get unused windows out of your way on your desktop. You can drag them off the side, you can minimize them, you can stuff them behind other apps. Now you can roll them up like window shades.

Back in the day, Finder in pre-OS X MacOS would let you "roll up" an application window into that app's title bar. The name of the application would still show, but the contents of that window were hidden. It helped remove some of the clutter, while leaving everything else pretty much intact. You can now do the same thing for your Windows box with WinRoll.

Coded all in assembly language, WinRoll is fast and compact. Once you roll your windows up and out of the way, it's easy to drag them around the screen and stack them in whatever order makes sense to you. You can even minimize everything to the System Tray and really clean things up.

WinRoll is a Windows application.

Download WinRoll

Free online graphics editor

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Aviary

Aviary is an aptly-named suite of online image manipulation tools. It comprises several pieces: Phoenix, an image editor, Peacock, a tool for building filters and creating effects, Toucan, an app for building palettes, and still under development is Raven, a vector graphics tool.

Like Photoshop, Aviary's files support layers. That means that you can do all of the layer-y things that you can do with Photoshop files: hide and show layers, move them up- and down in relation to other layers (overlapping), and move them around the screen as well. What you don't have to do is pay a huge amount for the privilege. And getting started is easy: they've got lots of tutorial videos to help you see what these tools can do, and how to get started.

Aviary is a free service. You'll need a web browser, but not much else, to use it.

Download Aviary