Archive for May, 2009

Track changes in web pages and other online content with Web Monitor

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Web Monitor

It's a great idea to try to stay on top of things. Unfortunately, there's only so many hours in the day / week / month. Keeping an eye on web pages, blogs, RSS feeds and more can be a daunting—and frankly impossible—task. Having an extra set of eyes could come in very helpful. Enter Web Monitor.

Web Monitor is a tool that will help you keep an eye on all these types of resources and more. Need to know when this web page changes, or when that news feed has new content? Web Monitor can keep an eye on it for you , and let you know when things have changed out there. Sitting unobtrusively in your System Tray, this tool will watch what you tell it to, and get back to you when it sees changes. You can set the re-check frequency, so you can check current news every five minutes, while checking more static resources less often. It'll highlight changes for you, so that you'll be able to easily pick out what's new in the world.

Web Monitor is a free download for your Windows system.

Download Web Monitor

Welcome To The Wonderful World of Chemistry: Periodic Table

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Periodic Table

The most prominent item on the wall of any high school (or college) Chemistry classroom or lab is a great big Periodic Table of the Elements. Even though the chart itself is huge, the amount of information it actually conveys is pretty small. After all, with well over a hundred elements, the overall space is cut up into relatively small slices.

Periodic Table is a free Windows application that gives you a lot more info than that great big chart. Along with the expected chemical symbol and atomic number, you can check out all the vital stats: atomic weight, boiling- and melting point, electron configuration, and more. In addition, it has built-in search capabilities as well: look for elements based on name, symbol, or even properties like its atomic radius.

Periodic Table doesn't cost anything—financially—to download and use, but that doesn't mean it comes without responsibilities: you're required to embrace personal growth, act responsibly toward the environment, and treat others with respect.

Download Periodic Table

Transfer big files with TransferBIGFiles

Friday, May 29th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of TransferBIGFiles

You've got files, and you need to get them from here to there. Maybe you need to work on the Big Project at home, but you didn't bring you laptop in today to carry it home on. Or maybe you need to share your work with a colleague in the next office—or on the other side of the world. You could attach it to an email, but big files in an email can be a no-no. You could set up an FTP server, but there's all the administrative overhead in the care and feeding of such a beast. Maybe you ought to check out TransferBIGFiles.

With no registration required, it's easy to send your files where they need to go. From their website, you just upload the file (or files) you're interested in, and enter an email address for your recipient. They'll get an email with a download link and before you know it, they've grabbed the file and you can all get on with life. There's no limit to the number of files you can transfer here, although they can't be larger that 1GB in size each. That's a pretty big file—all the data you can pack onto a CD-ROM and then some. Your file is available for at least five days after you upload it, so there's no reason why your recipient can't find a minute to grab it.

TransferBIGFiles is a free online service. It should be compatible with any computer running a modern web browser.

Download TransferBIGFiles

Far Manager file and archive manager

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Far Manager

Far Manager is a file management tool in the spirit of the venerable Norton Commander (kids, go ask your parents). It's a text-only app that lets you view files and directories; edit, copy, and rename files; and more. It supports a vast array of plugins that add specific functionality to this tool. They include such diverse functionality as syntax highlighting for source code, text auto-completion, search-and-replace through multiple files employing regular expressions, and many others. There's an active community of folks adding new plugins all the time, so the usefulness of this app increases constantly.

Far Manager is an open source Windows application.

Download Far Manager

tinySpell: the spell check tool for apps that don’t have spell check

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of tinySpell

With computers, there's no reason for misspelled words. Sure, you've got the occasional "affect" vs. "effect", or "your" vs. "you're", but when it comes to real typos, there's just no excuse. Word processors, spreadsheet apps, presentation management tools—they've all got built-in spell check capability. Unfortunately, though, there are still some tools that don't provide that kind of help. When you type a quickie little note into Notepad, for example, you're on your own in terms of spelling, 'cause it won't check for you. Unless you add a tool like tinySpell.

tinySpell is a spellcheck tool for applications that don't include that functionality themselves. Tell tinySpell which apps to pay attention to and which to ignore. You can use it to check your spelling in real time as you type, or you can check in batches by copying your text to the clipboard. Either way, you can fix the error yourself, or choose from a list of suggested alternative—correct—spellings.

There are two free versions of tinySpell: one for Windows 98, and another for Win2k / XP / Vista.

Download tinySpell

Fix your Mac with AppleJack

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of AppleJack

When you're out tooling around with your favorite Mac, sometimes things go wrong. Luckily, it's easy to fix many of these potential problems with tools like Disk First Aid, that are built into OS X. That's all well and good, provided your machine will actually boot into the Aqua GUI that we've all come to love on our Macs. But when your system has gone so far south that it won't even get you that far, then it's time to bring in the heavy artillery.

AppleJack is a remedy of last resort to help you bring your Mac back to the land of the living. Instead of relying on the windows and widgets of the GUI, it runs in that mysterious "Single User Mode"—the one where you get the cryptic text-only screen to work with. Once you boot into Single User Mode (by holding down [Command] + S while booting up), you invoke the app by typing "applejack" at the prompt. You'll get back a menu of choices, allowing you to repair disks, repair permissions, and tweak various other settings to make your machine behave once again with a little dignity.

Now if you're more than a little intimidated by working through that terminal interface, you may want to go grab the nerdy neighbor kid to give you a hand. but if you take it slow and easy, you may surprise yourself and be able to tap into your inner geek.

Needless to say, you'll need to download AppleJack before you need it, and then remember to use it when you need it. But hey, it's a free download for your OS X Mac, so maybe you'll want to give it a shot.

Download AppleJack

Zilla PDF to TXT Converter

Monday, May 25th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Zilla PDF to TXT Converter

Portable Document Format (PDF) files are a wonderful thing. They're the ultimate in cross-platform flexibility, and allow you to use text, images, and more in telling your story. Sometimes, though, too much flexibility can get in the way of getting work done. Suppose you're the proud recipient of a great big PDF file just chock full of images, fancy fonts, and all kinds of good stuff. Now imagine that you want the text—and just the text—from that file. While all that other stuff is good, if you're building a web page, for example, then you're really only interested in the text. Yes, you could go through and copy-and-paste all the textual content from that PDF doc, but that may be the most tedious thing you do all day. You need a tool that will take care of that for you.

Zilla PDF to TXT Converter is a free tool that will extract the text from a PDF page. It's got an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface—just drag your file, or files, onto the application window, and it'll strip out all the extraneous stuff and give you just the text. Now you can use it to build your web page, re-purpose it into a word processing document, or whatever else you need to do with it.

Zilla PDF to TXT Converter is a free Windows application. If you're interested in moving beyond this basic functionality, they've also got a paid version, called PDFZilla.

Download Zilla PDF to TXT Converter

Convert image formats with ImageTypeConverter

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of ImageTypeConverter

To say there's a difference between Windows and *NIX is an understatement. While there may be a bunch of applications written for each platform that help you do what needs doing, there is a fundamental divergence between them in terms of how to accomplish the completion of those tasks. Windows developers tend to create tools that are not unlike the fabled Swiss Army knife—a single tool that does a whole bunch of different things. Linux and other UNIX-like platforms seem to be populated primarily by small tools, each of which does a single task, but does it well. An exception to this dichotomy is the Windows application ImageTypeConverter.

Rather than being a total soup-to-nuts image manipulation solution, ImageTypeConverter strives to do one thing, but to do it well. If you give it an image in one of JPG, GIF, PNG, or BMP format, as well as a Windows icon image, it will convert that image into any others of the formats. It's simple to use—just drag and drop your image file and the conversion's as good as done.

ImageTypeConverter is a free (for non-commercial use) Windows application. It runs under WinXP and Vista.

Download ImageTypeConverter

Listen to your drawing with Blip

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Blip

Blip is an interesting app that lets you see what you're listening to—or even draw it. Perhaps a bit of explanation is in order.

With Blip, you're given an area to draw in, and the tools to execute your work of art. Once you draw on this canvas, the magic begins. The application interprets your drawing and converts it into sound. Each region in your drawing represents a particular sound, with the length and pitch of that sound being a function of where in your picture a given point lies. You can complete the drawing of your masterpiece before you pull the trigger on the app, or you can keep adding to your picture while Blip plays what's already on the screen. Either way, it's pretty likely that you're going to end up with a one-of-a-kind musical creation.

Blip is a free Windows application.

Download Blip

Rip and convert audio with Max for your Macs

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of Max

There are lots of ways to rip your CDs to audio files. iTunes will give you a quick-and-dirty copy of your favorite tunes, but that doesn't give you much flexibility. MP3s are pretty easy, but it can get tricky to try to go beyond that.

Max is a tool that lets you grab audio content and save it in high-quality files. It supports most popular audio formats, and lets you easily convert files between formats. To maximize speed, you can choose a no-error-correction mode for ripping cuts from a new CD, or you can slow the process down and filter-out any noise you may be picking up from older disks. It's even integrated with MusicBrainz, so you can automatically grab performer and track information as well.

Max is a Mac application. It requires OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or later.

Download Max