Archive for June, 2009

It's easier to read columns

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of Tofu

Why do newspapers use all those columns? It actually makes things easier to read—instead of having to track all the way across the page, you eyes only have to read across one column at a time. This makes it easier and faster to get through the story.

Why do most web pages and Word DOCs use only a single column? Probably because it's easier to build them that way. You can break these big chunks of text up into more manageable pieces with Tofu.

While this tool may be named after the most bland food known to humanity, it's anything but bland in its own right. If you've got a web page, a document, or any other content you'd like, to deal with more easily, stick it into Tofu. You can copy and paste, or browse to a file and open it directly into this tool. It seems to work pretty well, although it can be disconcerting to look at a blog page, for example, and see the sidebar broken into multiple columns. Also, the display on stuff that was already in columns can get kind of messy. Nevertheless, it's easy to use, and may just give you the help you've been looking for.

Tofu is a Mac application. It's a Universal binary, so it's equally at home on your PowerPC- or Intel-powered Mac. It runs under OS X version 10.4 and later.

Download Tofu

TextOpus – all text tools you need

Monday, June 29th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of TextOpus

It's all about text. Whether you're coding web pages or writing email, you've got to get the words out there. While there are plenty of high-powered word processors to choose from, sometimes you're working with simpler tools. A good old text editor can be a big help in generating unformatted ASCII files, but often that comes with some severe limitations regarding how you can manipulate your text.

TextOpus provides an assortment of text tools. Take a passage of text and convert it into all UPPERCASE or lowercase or even title case (Capitalize Initial Letters). Grab the ASCII values of the characters in your text, or go for hexadecimal, octal, or binary if you prefer. Strip tags and other markup from your passage.

Sort your text; reverse your text, or even shuffle your text. Add line numbers and delete duplicate lines. You can even generate statistics about your text—if you're writing a 300-word passage, it'd be nice to know when you hit 300 words. If you're feeling adventurous, you can encrypt your text, using a number of different algorithms. The publishers warn you, however, that you shouldn't rely on this encrypting for anything really important, since all data travels unencrypted between your browser and the server.

TextOpus is a free online service. You should be able to use it with just about any web browser on just about any computer.

Download TextOpus

Open++ enhances your "Right-Click" menu

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Open++

It's a simple fact of life: if you want to get anything done on your computer, you're going to have to mess with files and folders. As much as we might prefer to only deal with applications—run Microsoft Word, but don't worry about DOC files—we're still going to have to copy, rename, tweak timestamps, or otherwise manipulate files directly. While you've got all the power you need to take care of business this way, it's not always as easy or convenient as we might hope for.

Open++ is like putting Windows Explorer on steroids. It adds extra functionality to the Context Menu—that's what pops-up when you "Right-Click" on a file or folder—to make your life easier. Along with grabbing a file's path or feeding command-line arguments to an application, you can also do things like register a DLL, eject whatever's in your optical drive, and much more. You can choose to make actions apply only to a file, a folder, or both; choose to work on one item at a time, or a bunch of items selected at the same time. You can even customize the behavior of particular applications on your machine.

Open++ is a Windows application. It runs under Windows 2000 with Internet Explorer 5.0 and later. There are 32- and 64-bit versions.

Download Open++

Convert any file into a public web site

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of File2.ws

So you need to post a quickie web page, but you're not interested in going through all the foolishness of registering a domain, setting up a server, and on and on. Your choices would seem to be pretty limited. You might want to check out File2.ws.

This free service allows you to post just about anything as a web page. Of course you can grab HTML documents and put them up there, but there's more. Image and photo files are fair game, as are all manner of audio files, text files—including pages of code—word processing documents, archive files, and more. Just use your browser to select your local file, click the button to upload, and that's it. After your file is converted to a web page, you'll get back a unique URL that you can access directly. You and others can look at your handiwork, or download the original file.

Now bear in mind that there's no way of knowing exactly how long your file will remain available, so you won't want to put mission-critical stuff up there to have it disappear, but if you need to share something quickly, it's a pretty good setup.

File2.ws is a free online service. You should be able to access it from just about any machine running a recent web browser.

Download File2.ws

Bonus: Free Independence Day Printables

Friday, June 26th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Free Independence Day Printables

While it's the birthday of the dear old U. S. of A., maybe it's time to give yourself the present, with some free 4th of July printables.

Add a holiday flair to your business or personal correspondence with flag-themed printable stationery. Matching business cards are also available.

Got a special holiday recipe? There's no better place to keep track of your picnic favorites, like fried chicken or potato salad, than some firecracker-themed holiday recipe cards.

Keep the kids entertained and busy before fireworks time with some free printable coloring pages. Choose from patriotic themes, fireworks, and more. And if they're in the mood to make a contest of it, you can award them a flag-emblazoned Certificate of Achievement.

Hooray for the Fourth of July!

User-friendly, lightweight, fast email client

Friday, June 26th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Claws Mail

Where would we be without email? While we could probably go for quite a while without a telephone, we probably wouldn't last more than a couple of hours without email. While email itself is pretty simple stuff, getting it to work right can be more of a challenge.

There are lots of email clients out there that do lots of things, but as you know, when you add layers of functionality to any application, you're adding layers of complexity to it as well. By the time you format your message with all the pretty fonts and pictures, you can end up with a big message to send. This also means that the tool itself is pretty big and complicated. Claws is not such a tool.

What it is is a no-nonsense email client. You can't send HTML-formatted messages; you can't use it as a full-featured PIM. What you can do is use it for your POP or IMAP mail accounts—as many as you want to throw at it—as well as accessing your local mbox file. You can even create send-only accounts that let you access an SMTP server to push mail out into the world without receiving anything back. Plugins are also available to add more functionality to Claws Mail.

Claws Mail is a free app. It's available for a bunch of different Linux flavors, as well as Windows and Macintosh users.

Download Claws Mail

Reorder taskbar tabs with Taskix

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Taskix

One of the great things about modern operating systems is their ability to run multiple applications at once. Gone are the bad old days when you could only do one thing at a time. Of course, this means that you then have to keep track of all the different things you're doing. Luckily Windows helps you keep tabs on all this with the taskbar. With each open document represented graphically here, it's easy to [Alt]+[Tab] through each of them, or to select one by clicking on its tab. Unfortunately, there's not a bunch you can do to configure the layout of the items shown on the taskbar.

Taskix lets you configure your taskbar: move items around, scroll through them with your mouse wheel, and more. You can even get it all out of your way and go straight to the desktop if you want.

Taskix is a free Windows application. It runs under WinXP, Server 2003, Vista, and Server 2008, both 32- and 64-bit versions.

Download Taskix

File uploads and transfers are easy with Fling

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Fling

Whether you're building websites or just moving a bunch of files from here to there, you're familiar with File Transfer Protocol—FTP—applications. These are the magical tools that let you connect to remote servers and move your files around, as if their folders were living on your local machine. There are a bunch of different tools that can give you a hand with this process, but each one of them has a bit of a learning curve. If you want to transfer a file, do you drag-and-drop? or double-click? or maybe type a name into a textbox? It can get confusing.

With Fling, you don't have to be confused any more. You just create a Fling folder on your desktop, or other location on your local system. Now when you need to transfer a file, you just drag in into that folder. You can configure whether file transfer will take place immediately, or if you want to do things in batches—maybe once an hour or so. It makes it easy to update your website, keep a remote copy of files you're working on locally, or to move your files to just about any other remote location. You can even right-click on files in Windows Explorer to upload them directly, without having to drag them around on your desktop. How easy is that?

Fling is a free Windows application. It runs under any system from Win2k on up.

Download Fling

Context-aware computing for Mac OS X

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of MarcoPolo

If you've ever been a kid on a hot summer day in a swimming pool, or if you're a historian specializing in the Venetian Republic, then you're familiar with Marco Polo. In the kids' game, it's all a matter of figuring out where you are based on who's around you and what they're up to. You ping them by shouting out "Marco", and they respond with "Polo". Even though your eyes are closed, based on what you hear, you can then figure out what's going on around you.

MarcoPolo is a free application for your Mac that lets you figure out where you are, but without getting all that pesky water in your ears. It looks at a bunch of context clues—IP address, attached Firewire and USB devices, visible wireless networks, etc.—to figure out where your portable Mac is at any given moment. Once your machine knows where it it, it can automatically configure your system so that it makes sense in that context: change the default printer, tweak firewall rules, mount network shares, and more.

MarcoPolo is a free Mac application. It runs under OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and later.

Download MarcoPolo

Logotag Free is a free complete CAD 2D tool

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Logotag Free

If you're serious about CAD, you probably have a pretty big bank account. We've come a long way from the days of T-squares and eraser shields, so if you're going to put together some mechanical drawings, you're going to need to make sure you've got the right software tools—that's where the big pile of money comes in. Well, as it turns out, you may not need all that cash anyway.

Logotag Free is a free tool for 2D CAD. While the free part is nice, free isn't worth too much if it doesn't get the job done. This guy can import AutoCAD files, both DWG and DXF, and has a full complement of functionality to let you create, modify, and trim all the elements of your drawing. Add to that dimensioning, and you're almost done. Save and print your files, and now your design can become a reality.

Logotag Free is a Windows application.

Download Logotag Free