Archive for December, 2009

Corrupt Office Suite Text/Data Extracting Service

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Corrupt Office Suite Text/Data Extracting Service

You know the scenario: you've just slaved away for hours—or days—on a project, report, spreadsheet, or some other complicated document containing tons of data. You've checked and double-checked all the facts and figures, You've formatted it just so, and now you're ready to go. All of a sudden, something breaks. Maybe it's hard drive problems, maybe something got munched while zipping it, maybe it got munged while being emailed. No matter what the cause is, you've now seen all your hard work go straight down the tubes. So how do you propose to get it all back?

Well of course, it would be nice if you had a backup. But what if it's a document you received but didn't create? Check out the free online Corrupt Office Suite Text/Data Extracting Service. Submit your broken Office 2007 (DOCX, XLSX, or PPTX) files and chances they'll be able to stitch them back together and give you something useful once again. It's supposed to work with OpenOffice documents as well. Older-format Office files, while not completely repaired, can at least have their content extracted, saving you the huge amount of typing necessary to put your life back together.

This service as available online for free. And thanks to Paul for giving us a heads-up on this tool.

Download Corrupt Office Suite Text/Data Extracting Service

WeatherMate helps you keep an eye on the weather

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of WeatherMate

Hot or cold, rain or sun, windy or calm. Even though we can't really do anything about the weather—global warming notwithstanding—it is nice to have some idea what to expect once we walk out the front door. Umbrella vs tank top is an important choice. Your local paper can give you a forecast (and sometimes it's accurate), or you can watch TV (but have to suffer through all the ads), or you can go high-tech and use your computer to see what's up.

WeatherMate is a little app that lets you keep an eye on what Mother Nature has in store for you weather-wise. It sits unobtrusively in your System Tray keeping an eye on the weather for you. It gets its data from The Weather Channel, and can give you the latest conditions, forecasts, and even extra goodies like Doppler radar images for locations all over the world.

WeatherMate is a free Windows application.

Download WeatherMate

Tool helps you create frame animation movies

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of FrameByFrame

Since the days of Gumby, there has been a fascination with stop-action animation. Whether it's the travails of Mr Bill on Saturday Night Live, or more recent outings like Fantastic Mr Fox, there's a lot that can be done with this form of animation.

If you'd like to join the likes of Tim Burton and Wes Anderson you might want to take FrameByFrame out for a spin. You can use any webcam or video camera to take your shots, and then use this tool to stitch them together and before you know it, you'll be getting a call from the Academy. Or at least you'll be having fun animating your Legos and wind-up tin toys.

FrameByFrame is a free download for your Mac. The latest version runs under OS X 10.5 and later, and there's an earlier version that's still compatible with Tiger (10.4). It's a Universal Binary, so it's equally home on PowerPC and Intel Macs.

Download FrameByFrame

Turn the volume down while you drop off to sleep

Monday, December 28th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Goodnight Timer

There are lots of timers and alarms out there that will wake you up, but what about one that will help you go to sleep? Goodnight Timer can do just that.

Just fire it up and start setting times. If you like to drop off while listening to music, it will automatically decrease the volume for you, and eventually power your system down. Choose either a specific time to end, or set an interval—maybe 30 minutes, maybe an hour. At the appointed time, it will begin decreasing the volume coming out through your speakers. You can choose either a linear or geometric profile, to turn things down at a constant rate, or to back-end load the decrease. Either way, it resets your system's volume back to normal when it finishes, so the next time you boot up you'll be able to hear things again.

Goodnight Timer is a free download. It runs under Windows.

Download Goodnight Timer

Free online PHP IDE

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of PHPAnywhere

Most anything that you create that's supposed to do something online requires that you work with plain text. Whether it's a Java class, an HTML web page, or a PHP script, you don't want to be using Word to write your code. While word processors make your next business proposal or that letter to Mom look pretty, they put a bunch of extra stuff into your documents, making them useless as source code for your next online app. What you need is something that creates files as plain text.

Once you move beyond the simplest snippets of code, a plain vanilla text editor like Notepad or TextEdit, things start to get pretty complicated. Sure, it's easy to dash off a dozen lines of code and see what you've done, but once you start calling functions from other files or writing some gnarly nested conditionals, you really need an integrated development environment (IDE) to work with. Along with creating files of just text, these tools typically add functionality like syntax highlighting, the ability to group individual files together into projects, and other programmer-friendly features.

PHPAnywhere is an online service that gives you an IDE to write PHP code in your web browser. Instead of downloading a big clunky app to your desktop, all you need to do here is log into your account and start coding. And since it's an online tool, that means that you can access if from anywhere you have Internet access. Take your work project home without having to bring your laptop along or set up tricky remote networking stuff. It features syntax highlighting, a zillion levels of undo, and a robust find-and-replace functionality. It may well become your go-to tool for writing your PHP.

PHPAnywhere is compatible with Opera and Gecko-based web browsers (Firefox, Camino, SeaMonkey) running on any supported platform. They claim that soon they'll support IE, Safari, and Chrome as well.

Download PHPAnywhere

Build and host a website for free

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Weebly

Just about everybody's got a website or a blog, right? But what about you—maybe it's time to hop in the bandwagon and stake out your piece of the Web. If only the cost of entry—both financially and mentally—weren't so high.

One way to get going easily is with a free service like Weebly. These guys will get you up and running in nothing flat. You don't have to know a bunch of HTML, PHP, or any of those other acronyms to get a site set up. With their drag-and-drop interface, it's dead simple to get things started. They've got a bunch of templates for you to use, so being artistically-impaired shouldn't stand in your way either.

If you're a complete newbie, they've got all you need. If you already own a domain, they will host if for you (for a price) while still letting you use their development tools. All in all, it looks like a pretty easy way to get your foot in the door, and set you on your way to becomming the next dot-com gazillionaire.

Weebly is a free service. You should be able to access its features with any run-of-the-mill web browser.

Download Weebly

Lotus focuses your attention without giving you a stroke

Friday, December 25th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of Lotus

There are a bunch of different timer applications out there, and they all do pretty much the same thing: at the end of a predetermined length of time, they create some type of commotion to get your attention—maybe ring an alarm, or play a song, or some such other thing. That definitely gets your attention, but it can be somewhat jarring as well. Lotus is an alarm that gets your attention, but does so more gently.

Designed to be used during meditation, it features a three-phase timer that gently calls you back. Helpful not only for use during meditation, you can use it in other situations where you want to be reminded that some interval has passed, but without giving yourself a heart attack when all of a sudden your computer starts screaming at you. If you have multiple timer settings, you can save them to make it easy to re-use your presets.

Lotus is a free download. It's a Mac application and works under OS X 10.4 and later, including 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

Download Lotus

Cross-platform image resizer

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Shrink O'Matic

Tweaking pictures one at a time is a pain in the neck. A camera full of digital images takes up a ton of space, and would take forever to load if you were to put them on a website or blog. Shrinking them down into something more manageable will save space, and makes it easier for everybody who views your handiwork online to see it quicker and get on with their day.

Resizing images is easy with Shrink O'Matic. Just drag and drop your picture files onto the application, or browse for them on your hard drive. It works equally well with JPEG, GIF, and PNG images. Choose a maximum height or width for your tweaked pictures, and then save them in their original format, or convert them into one of the other supported image types.

Shrink O'Matic runs on the Adobe Air platform. That means that it's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux machines—any system that supports Air. That's handy, since you can use the same tool on all of your machines.

Download Shrink O'Matic

Find duplicate audio tracks on your machine

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Duplicate Music Files Finder

If you've got a music collection of any size on your computer, you can almost guarantee that there are duplicate tracks in there. Whether it's because you ripped the same CD twice, dropped files in some unusual location, or even have a "Greatest Hits" compilation, you're wasting space that you could put to better use—maybe even for more tunes! But how do you dig through all that stuff to find potential duplicates?

Duplicate Music Files Finder can give you a hand with this. When it looks for duplicates, it's smart about it. Rather than just looking for identical filenames, it looks inside the audio files themselves, comparing file CRCs, and even looking at MP3 tag metadata to see if any two files really are duplicates of one another. Once you find any duplicates, you can play them in your media player to make sure, and then choose to delete the duplicates. It can also identify duplicates among non-media files as well. If you've got several copies of the Johnson Project report scattered around your hard drive, it'll help you find them all.

A Windows tool, Duplicate Music Files Finder is a free download.

Download Duplicate Music Files Finder

Tools to help keep track of your fish

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of TankBuddy

Back in the day, your interest in fish ran to the goldfish sitting in a bowl on top of your dresser. You remember, it's the one you won at the fair by throwing a Ping-Pong ball and having it land in the fishbowl. You've come a long way since then.

A modern aquarium, fully stocked with critters, requires lots of attention. Along with feeding the fish and all the other little guys in there, there are a ton of other things to track, including temperature, pH of the water, and so on. Now you can use the computer where you've got the aquarium screensaver as a tool to help you maintain the aquarium with real fish swimming around.

TankBuddy helps you keep detailed records about how your little finned friends are doing. Set reminders to make sure you're changing the water when you need to. You can even add free-form notes to stay on top of what's happening. It supports multiple tanks, so you can keep track of your amphibians, fresh water, and salt water fish all in one application.

TankBuddy is a free Mac application. You can use it with systems running OS X 10.5 or later.

Download TankBuddy