Archive for October, 2009

Receive faxes for free

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of DepositDox

No matter how connected you are, there's always going to be somebody you have to exchange information with who isn't as close to the cutting edge of technology as you are. It's easy to send an email or download a document, but there's always going to be somebody who needs to send you a fax. You could go out and buy a fax machine, or get a new multifunction printer, or even high-tail it down to the local shipping-and-packing store to receive that incoming fax, but why bother? Between the expense and the hassle, it's just not right.

DepositDox is a free online service that lets you receive faxes as email attachments. While there are other services that do this same thing, these guys also keep a copy of your fax on their servers. That means you can go back and grab another copy if you want, or you can use them to store some of your important goodies: send a fax to yourself and they'll keep a copy of it up there as well.

Unlike most other services, DepositDox gives you a toll-free number with your free account. That makes it convenient for folks who send you faxes. There are no restrictions of how many faxes you can receive, so you can really put these guys to work for you.

DepositDox is a free service. You'll need a web browser to view faxes online, an email account to receive faxes, and a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to read faxes that come as attachments to your email. But you won't need a fax machine.

Download DepositDox

File transfer is easy with Classic FTP

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Classic FTP

If you run a blog or have a website, you know all about FTP—File Transfer Protocol. These three simple letters can mean several different things: the language that computers use when talking to one another about moving files around; the tool you use to do that moving; and even as a verb, in describing what you're doing, as in "I'm going to FTP those files up to the server." The use of FTP is almost as complicated as talking about it.

If you FTP from the command prompt, then you're probably already confused. Between all the PUTs and the GETs, it's a wonder anything gets done. A graphical FTP tool can be a real time saver, as well as doing wonders for your sanity.

Classic FTP is a pretty straightforward GUI FTP client. It features drag-and-drop uploads and downloads between your local machine and the server. Add default local and remote directories, and you'll save even more time, since you don't have to manually reposition yourself every time you connect.

Classic FTP is a free download. It's available for Windows (Win 2000 and later), PocketPC, and Macs running OS X (10.2+).

Download Classic FTP

Free Microsoft Anti-Virus Application

Monday, October 19th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Microsoft Security Essentials

We all know that it's important to guard against the "bad guys" getting onto our systems. Firewall, phishing, Trojan horse—we've heard all the terms related to system security. You know that you should have an anti-virus tool on your system, but for whatever reason, you just haven't gotten around to it. Maybe it seems too complicated, or you've gotten too many false-positives in the past, or maybe it's just too darn expensive. Well, the 800 pound gorilla in the room just got rid of the expense excuse.

The folks in Redmond have released Microsoft Security Essentials, a free application that can help protect your system against viruses, spyware, and other malware. It's easy to install, and they plan to keep it updated so that you'll be ready for the next nasty thing to come at you. It runs quietly in the background, keeping an eye on the comings and goings of your system, ready to jump on the bad guys before they wreak havoc on your machine. They make it all pretty easy to get up and running, with installation instructions and tips on how to scan your system, and even what to do if the tool finds a problem

Microsoft Security Essentials is a Windows application, and it's free for home use. It's compatible with systems running XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

Download Microsoft Security Essentials

Remember stuff with Memoriser

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Memoriser

There are just some things you need to memorize. Sure, you've got notepads and stickies and all manner of electronic tools to remember stuff for you, but there's always that stray something that you need when you're not around your memory aids—maybe it's an address, an important phone number, your ATM PIN (you didn't write it on the back of the card, did you?) or (shudder) the name of your supervisor's spouse or kids. Nothing can substitute for having that all-important piece of intel just when you need it.

There's nothing like repetition to memorize something. Back in the Third Grade, you used flash cards to memorize the multiplication tables, running through them again and again and again until you lived and breathed those numbers. Today you don't need to rummage though the junk drawer looking for index cards; just check out Memoriser.

Memoriser (the British spelling, with an "s") is a tool you can use on your computer. You define the questions and answers, and tell it how often to quiz you. It figures out which things you've learning and which you need more work on, and tweaks its schedule accordingly. After all, why spend tons of time on questions you're good on, rather than on the stuff that you need to work on more?

Memoriser run under Windows.

Download Memoriser

Get ten clipboards in one with TenClips

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of TenClips

When you're writing code, sometimes your (computer's) desktop looks like an explosion. Maybe you're working with several files in an IDE, you've got a dozen text files open, a couple of specification documents, along with all the normal email, IM tools, and everything else you need to really be productive. You're moving text back and forth between all these different windows, and frankly losing your mind in the process. Your clipboard is getting a real workout, but you just know there's got to be an easier way to carry all this stuff back and forth.

TenClips bills itself as the "ultimate multiple clipboards for developers." It incorporates features of a multiple-clipboard application with format-stripping capabilities as well. With ten individual clipboards, you'll probably find a cubbyhole for all the "stuff" you need to move from here to there. Imagine grabbing all the individual pieces you need from the spec doc at one time and then pasting them into your code individually—no back-and-forth to get the job done. And you can choose a plain-old paste, bringing formatting information along, or alternatively you can paste "purified text"—just the text, with no formatting.

TenClips is a free Windows tool. It runs under XP, Vista, and Windows 7

Download TenClips

Tag your files with Tagit

Friday, October 16th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of Tagit

How much information do you suppose you have to sift through in a given day? A lot? A WHOLE lot? Sometimes it can get pretty overwhelming for sure.

Your computer has a bunch of data on it. But unfortunately, no matter how important all this information may be, it's not always easy to find just the pieces you're looking for when you need them. If it were all in a book, you'd have an index to work with. Unfortunately, most of the time all you've got is document names, which functions much more like a table of contents. If you're looking for the Johnson report, if you don't have a Word DOC named "Johnson Report", you may be in for a long, hard slog trying to find it. It sure would be nice to be able to add some tags and keywords to your documents to make it easier to find them.

Tagit is a free tool that lets you do just that. Based on some of the magical inner-workings of the Mac's OS X operating system, the clever engineers who put this together have figured out a way to tag your files with all sorts of metadata, and then to be able to search on that data to find your documents. Just drag a document onto the app in the Dock and you can assign tags, give ratings, and otherwise make your life easier. And that's a good thing.

Tagit is a free Mac application. You need to be running OS X 10.5.5 or later to use it.

Download Tagit

Automate the mundane with Blaze

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Blaze

Working with your computer, you can accomplish great things. Clever and insightful documents. Exciting and useful code. Financial calculations sure to make you the next zillionaire. Unfortunately, while we're doing all these great things, it's often easy to get bogged-down in the minutiae of the process. Running apps, moving files around, all that sort of thing.

Blaze is a clever little tool that helps to take some of the drudgery out of the mundane stuff that holds the brilliance together. Install it on your machine and it watches over your shoulder. When it sees you doing some repetitive task—renaming a bunch of files one after another—it pops-up its head (or at least its dialog box) and helps you finish what you're doing. If there's a pattern to it, it recognizes the pattern and can continue it for you, saving you from the banal and letting you soar to greatness.

A free Windows application, Blaze runs under XP, Vista, and Windows 7, in both 32- and 64-bit flavors.

Download Blaze

Convert your high-quality digital photos into low-res Polaroids

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Rollip

Photographs. What started out way back when as pictures on tin or glass plates had progressed through the years to the point where there's actually noting behind the lens now—no plates, no film, just an electronic image sensor. Makes for great pictures, but it does lose a bit of the mystique of photography in the process.

Digital cameras aren't the first "take a photo and look at it right now" solution. Back in the day Edwin Land created the Polaroid camera, supposedly to mollify an impatient child who didn't want to wait for the film to come back from the drug store to see the photos that had been taken. The film stock and the necessary chemicals were packaged together so that taking a snapshot and developing it were really just each a part of part of the same process. Polaroid pictures were characterized, among other things, by the ever-present white border around the margins of the photo. You can recapture that look with a tool named Rollip.

With your digital photo, you can choose how to crop the image, imperfections to add (maybe a nice coffee mug stain?), and text to write in the margin. Click the button, and your image is uploaded, processed, and you're given a link to click to download your masterpiece.

Rollip is a free service. You'll need a web browser (and Internet access) to use it.

Download Rollip

Brand your PDF files with PDFInfo

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of PDFInfo

Portable Document Format (PDF) files are a handy way to share information. Since they're easy to read, using the ubiquitous Adobe Reader application, but difficult to write to (since a full-blown version of Acrobat costs a king's ransom), they're a good way to get your story out there without having to worry about how it might get changed in the process. Write a report in Word or send a timesheet from Excel and somebody may change it—accidentally or on purpose—into something that you didn't actually write. In addition, since PDF files can be accessed by folks running PC's, Mac's, and even the Linux crowd, everybody can see what you've got to say. There is more to PDF files than what first meets the eye, however.

Along with all the text and images that PDFs bring along for the ride, they can also store a wealth of metadata. Items such as subject, keywords, author, and more are included here. But how do I get hold of that stuff? Check out PDFInfo.

This tool gives you easy access to all the standard metadata fields in the PDF file's Info Dictionary. Whether it's a file you created with a high-priced version of Acrobat, or one you created with one of the many print-to-PDF-file utilities out there, you can put your brand on your documents.

PDFInfo is a free download. It's a Mac app, distributed as a Universal Binary, so it should run on systems running OS X 10.3 or later, on either PowerPC or Intel machines.

Download PDFInfo

Run Google productivity apps on your desktop with GMDesk

Monday, October 12th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of GMDesk

Once upon a time, Google was a search engine. You used it to find stuff online, and it was good. After a while, they decided that they wanted to do more. They started creating applications that you could use to do more than just search. We're all familiar with GMail, Google Maps, their calendar, Google Docs, and all the other good stuff that they're got. Unfortunately, since all these apps are run as online services, it's been necessary to run a web browser to use them. After all, how do you get at the online stuff if not with a browser?

GMDesk is an alternative to that approach. Built on the Adobe Air platform, this tool lets you run Google's tools without running a browser. With Gmail or Google Docs running in GMDesk, they're literally just another app running on your desktop. You can easily task-switch between these and your other applications, and you don't have to bog your system down with all the overhead of your web browser.

GMDesk runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms—in fact, anywhere that you can install Adobe Air.

Download GMDesk