Archive for December, 2009

Application automates routine email

Monday, December 21st, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Karen's E-Mailer II

How many email messages do you suppose you send in a typical day? A couple? A bunch? Way too many? And how many of those are just routine stuff? If you're tired of typing the same message over and over again, we've found a tool that might give you some relief.

Karen's E-Mailer II makes it easy to automate the email process. You can create predefined messages and send them by just double-clicking a shortcut icon. Alternatively, you can fire-off a message from the command prompt as well. Stick that into a script or macro, and now your computer can email you when it does something important, like finishing a backup or completing compiling the newest version of the next killer app.

A free download, Karen's E-Mailer II is a Windows application. It should run fine on any Win32 platform from Windows 95 on up.

Download Karen's E-Mailer II

Check out apps that run automatically

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Autoruns for Windows

Most Windows systems run a pretty good-sized number of programs when they start up. Not only are there apps that the system wants, but usually the user has added several to that list—some intentionally, and some not. When you look at all the stuff that lives in the Startup Folder, and various Run… registry branches, you can see that your system's a pretty busy place at startup. After a while, it can start to take a hefty chunk of time to get things up and running.

Autoruns for Windows is a tool that can help you to examine just what all is happening at startup. Its GUI takes you through all the locations where autorun items live and lets you see what's really going on in there. You can deactivate apps by deselecting a checkbox, allowing you to speed up what may have become a rather sluggish system. If you find out that you don't really need a particular program or service, you can simply delete it.

A free download, Autoruns for Windows runs on workstations running Windows XP or higher, or servers using Windows Server 2003 and later.

Download Autoruns for Windows

Free online timer stopwatch

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Timer Stopwatch

Need to time a three minute egg or a five minute cup of tea, but you don't have a timer in your pocket? You're in luck if you have a web browser.

Timer Stopwatch is a free online app that lets you set a countdown timer. Whether it's a few seconds, a couple of minutes, or several hours, you can set this timer to do what you need. The default is just a plain-vanilla countdown timer, but you can tweak it to behave in the way you want. Choose a different display size and color, if that suits your fancy. Add an alarm to let you know when the countdown is done—it will either play sounds or pop-up an alert for you.

Timer Stopwatch is a free online app. You can access it with any standard web browser. For the alarm to function, Windows users will need to be sure that QuickTime Player is installed on their system (it's already there for Mac users).

Download Timer Stopwatch

To do reminders made easy

Friday, December 18th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of PhiTodo

Run here, go there, and don't forget anything. Now that's a pretty tall order. How in the world do you keep track of it all? Slips of paper aren't too efficient, and store-bought organizers cost a small fortune. Thank goodness for free software that can help you keep track of it all.

PhiTodo is one one such tool. You can keep track of appointments, meetings, and more. Organize individual tasks, or group them together to create projects. Sort them, arrange them, and keep track of the time you've spent on each piece. Now nothing's going to fall through the cracks, and you'll always know how long everything took to complete. Not only can you now answer the question "where did all the time go," but you'll also be able to plan better next time based on how things went this time.

PhiTodo is a free download. It runs on the Adobe AIR platform, so it's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.

Download PhiTodo

A Start Menu for your Mac

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of Start Menu

Whatever your opinion of Windows, one good thing about that platform is the "Start" button that gives you access to most of the apps on the machine. With your Mac, you can drag apps to the Dock to make them easy to find, but you do still have to locate them yourself, at least the first time. So how about adding a Start button to the system without having to deal with all that other Windows-y stuff?

Start Menu is a free tool that lets you do just that. Find it once and drag it to the Dock or drop an alias on the desktop, and now whenever you need to run an app, just click on its icon. It's already gone out and found all the apps on your system, so all you need to do is scroll through the list and click on the program you want to fire up. It's all pretty easy.

A free download, Start menu is a Mac app. It runs under OS X on systems using Tiger (10.4) or better.

Download Start Menu

Resize and tweak digital images with VSO Image Resizer

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of VSO Image Resizer

Digital cameras are pretty slick. For many folks, you can take more, better pictures than you can with an old-school camera with film. And since there's no consumable film involved, there's really no incremental cost between taking a dozen photos and taking a zillion of them. They're pretty versatile, also, since you can use your digital images on your website, blog, or even email them to grandma—although with the big file sizes involved, that last one can be a problem.

There are plenty of tools out there that you can use to tweak your pictures so that they aren't so big, letting you share them more easily, whether as an attachment to an email or a picture on a website. If you're looking for such a tool, you might want to take a look at VSO Image Resizer. As the name suggests, this app lets you resize your pictures, but you can also do more. Change the resolution of your images, compress them, do bulk renaming, or even add a watermark. It's compatible with most image formats, and it even knows about RAW formats for several digital camera manufacturers.

VSO Image Resizer is free for personal use. You can use it on Windows systems running Win2000 and later.

Download VSO Image Resizer

Menubar app lets you know how long you've got to wait

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of Countdown Clock

Like the song says, there's "a time for every purpose under Heaven." But just when is that time? Sometimes we need a little reminder, and one of those reminders is often a good timer.

Countdown Clock is a menubar app. It sits in your Mac's menubar at the top of your screen, and does its thing. That thing is to count down and display a little circular icon that is shaded to give you a graphical representation of the amount of time left to count down. So what do you count down? Minutes until the big meeting, hours 'til the end of the day, shopping days until Christmas—it's all up to you. Choose a daily schedule (countdown from the beginning of the day until the end), or set-up a one-time-only schedule (time your tea steeping, or count down to your birthday or the big game).

A free download for your Mac, Countdown Clock runs under OS X. The publisher claims Jaguar (10.2) compatibility, but it looks like you may have better luck with Tiger (10.4) or later.

Download Countdown Clock

Rein in your laptop's touchpad

Monday, December 14th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of TouchFreeze

We all love our laptops. They're handy to carry along, and they've got such a small footprint that often they're the perfect desktop tool as well. You can doll them all up with external monitors, keyboards, mice, and such, but they're perfectly happy to run just as they are. Unfortunately sometimes we're not so happy with them.

Most modern laptops have a touchpad pointing device. For ease of operation, this is generally located in front of the keyboard, between the space bar and the front of the computer itself. Now if you're using good hand position form, your hands arch over the touchpad and nothing bad happens. If you're sloppy or lazy or just unlucky, your thumb may brush along the touch-sensitive surface. Depending on your device's sensitivity, this inadvertent touch may send your computer's cursor off into outer space. You're typing along, minding your own business, and all of a sudden everything goes nuts. It sure would be handy to be able to disengage that touchpad for a while.

TouchFreeze lets you do just that. While you're pointing around the screen everything behaves as expected, but when you start typing characters on the keyboard, it temporarily disables the touchpad. Now no matter how many times you tap your finger on it, you're not going to mess yourself up. And that's a good thing.

TouchFreeze is a free Windows application. It runs on machines using under the NT/2000/XP flavors of Windows.

Download TouchFreeze

Online virus and malware scanner

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of ESET Online Scanner

Viruses, Trojan horses, all manner of malware. It's a dangerous world out there, and if you're not careful, your system can easily be compromised. Best case is that you may be mildly inconvenienced; worst case, you lose data and have your personal information vacuumed up. Neither of these is good.

The best defense against the Bad Guys here is to make sure that you're running the latest antivirus tools on your system. Sometimes that means buying and installing a commercial product; other times you might download a free tool that lets you keep the nasties at bay. But what about an option where you don't have to install anything on your system at all?

ESET Online Scanner runs in your browser and helps keep your system safe and clean. There's nothing to install, so since you're running it from the publisher's servers, it's always up-to-date, without your having to remember to do anything on your end.

It does use ActiveX controls, so even though it's an online app, it's only compatible with Windows systems. It runs as-is on Internet Explorer, but there is support for other browsers like Firefox and Safari as well.

Download ESET Online Scanner

Get rid of old files with Clean Drive

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Clean Drive

How much old stuff do you have rattling around on your computer? We're talking old downloads from way-back-when, drafts of papers you never got back to delete, and even leftover temp files from that time Word blew up on you way back when. It might be nice to recapture that wasted space and get rid of all that junk.

Clean Drive is a tool that lets you easily find all this old stuff. Once you've identified it, it just takes a click to send it all away. It finds both individual files and whole directories for you. And you can run it through the GUI, or even from the command prompt, making it easy to automate the process if you want to routinely clean house.

A Windows application, Clean Drive is a free download. It runs under Win2k and later.

Download Clean Drive