Archive for February, 2010

Free tea timer

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of TeaTimer

Do you drink tea? Whether you make it a pot at a time, or a just a single cup, you know that timing can be critical. If you let it steep as little as a minute or two extra you can turn a fine cup into a nasty, bitter mess. A timer is pretty critical here.

Messmer, a European tea company, has a timer you can download to your desktop to make sure you avoid that problem. Pick the type of tea from the dropdown list (in German–you remember that from high school, right?), click Start, and it will count down just the right amount of time for you and your selection, and then alert you with a little musical snippet when you tea is done to perfection.

The Tea Timer is available for both Mac and PC, so everybody can enjoy the perfect cup of tea. Unfortunately, you can't download any tea to go with it.

Download TeaTimer

Put your secondary mouse button to good use

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Lammer Context Menu

When you're really zooming along, don't you just hate to have to take your hands off the mouse? You're flying along and everything's going great. You're copying and pasting to beat the band. And then it happens: you have to color outside the lines. Maybe you want to copy a path, or maybe you need to grab all the DOC files in a particular directory, or even open a DOS window. Everything grinds to a screeching halt as you take you hand off the mouse and start flailing through menus and dialogs looking for just the right command.

If this sounds familiar, you may want to check out Lammer Context Menu. An extension for Windows Explorer, it adds all kinds to extra functionality to the your context (right-click) menu. From a single menu entry, you can open submenus for Folder and File tweaks. Do bulk file renaming, open in Notepad, calculate checksums, and more.

Lammer Context Menu is a free download. It's a Windows app and runs under XP and later. You'll also need to make sure you've got .NET Framework version 3.5.

Download Lammer Context Menu

Check for typos and misspelled words with After The Deadline

Friday, February 26th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of After The Deadline

When you write in Word, OpenOffice Writer, or any other high-powered word processor, you've got built-in spell checking, grammar checking, and more. But any more, lots of your writing doesn't take place in one of these desktop apps. Writing blog posts, creating Tweets in Twitter, and lots of other places have you composing directly in your web browser, where these types of tools aren't necessarily available to you.

You can add the ability to check spelling, grammar, and usage with After The Deadline. This tool is available as an Add-on for Firefox. Click in a text field on your online form, hit the After The Deadline hotkey, and it'll take a look a things and let you know what it thinks might need attention, highlighting spelling errors in red, problems with grammar in green, and even style suggestions in blue.

And if you don't happen to have Firefox, they've made the core functionality of this tool available as a bookmarklet that you can use with Safari and Internet Explorer.

After The Deadline is free for personal use. All you'll need to use it is a recent copy of Firefox and a dedication to making (and fixing) spelling errors.

Download After The Deadline

Search and replace text in multiple files at once

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Replace Text

If you're writing code or creating web pages, you spend a lot of your life working with straight text files. For you, there's no such thing as formatting; you just type the text and let the compilers and servers do the heavy lifting. From time to time you may have occasion to need to change something you've typed into a file. Maybe there's a new URL you need to reference, or maybe somebody went through and changed the names of all the images that are included in your pages. You don't relish the need to go through all those files in order to do a search and replace to update that information. You may be stuck with that, however, unless you can come up with an easier way to take care of business.

Replace Text is a handy tool that lets you find and replace text. While there are lots of tools that can help you with that, this guy can work on multiple files at once. In addition, it's not limited to searching for just literal strings: it also supports some pretty heavy-duty regular expression searches as well. You can specify a particular file, a whole directory of files, or even build a mask to choose specific files—maybe all the TXT or HTML files in a particular directory. Your replacements can happen to the original files, or you can specify different filenames and directories so that you don't mess up your originals. It logs everything as well, so you can see that your work has been done, or take a look at what messed-up if things didn't go as smoothly as you'd hoped.

A free download, Replace Text is a Windows application.

Download Replace Text

"Lorem ipsum" for images

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Dynamic Dummy Image Generator

We recently looked at a "Lorem ipsum" generator that lets you create dummy text to use while mocking up a new or redesigned website. It may help you to visualize text on your pages before you've invested the blood, sweat, and tears to actually write content. But what about images? Certainly those don't spring forth fully-armed from the forehead of Zeus either. So what can you use as placeholders while you're getting your graphical act together?

The Dynamic Dummy Image Generator is an online service that lets you create mock-up images to get the spacing right on your pages. Generating images is as simple as adding width- and height- attributes to their site's URL. The resulting image, a gray box with its dimensions clearly spelled-out in it, can be hot-linked from the publisher's site, or you can save the generated GIF file to your server and grab it locally. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can grab the underlying PHP code and host this tool on your own server.

A free service, Dynamic Dummy Image Generator should be compatible with just about any make and model of web browser.

Download Dynamic Dummy Image Generator

Make your Mac act like a PC in a good way

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of PresButan

Macs are cool. Windows machines are cool. There are lots of similarities between them, and lots of differences. If your work or play takes you back and forth between the two platforms, the similarities can be helpful. As a rule of thumb, if your Windows machine does something by pressing the [Control] key and some other key—like copying to the clipboard via [Control] + C—your Mac will probably do similar things by pressing the [Command] key instead. PC is [Control], Mac is [Command]. Not too bad.

But then there are the differences. In Windows, you can start an app by selecting its icon and pressing [Enter]. On your Mac, once you select that icon, you've got to use [Command] + O to do the same thing. Not so helpful. But there are ways to work around that. One of those ways is PresButan.

This Mac tool lets you choose to use the [Return] or the [Enter] key (no, they're not the same on a Mac) to start applications. By employing some fancy sleight-of-hand involving enabling support for assistive devices via the Universal Access Preference Panel, you can add this Windows-y functionality to your Mac. As an added bonus, you can add one other tweak as well: the ability to delete a file by selecting its icon and pressing the [Delete] key. No more [Command] + [Delete] or right-click and "Move to Trash" with the mouse. Hey, it's not much, but it could be kind of handy.

PresButan is a Mac application. It requires OS X version 10.4 (Tiger) or later. There's also still an older version to use on your Panther (10.3) system if you prefer.

Download PresButan

I'm gonna' wash that SPAM right outta' my hair

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of MailWasher

How much SPAM do you get in a day? And how much of your life do you waste in getting rid of it? Probably a lot, and too much, in that order. While we know that there's a special place in—you know, that hot place where bad people go—for spammers, that doesn't help you out now. There are lots of tools available to help you try to dig out from under the deluge of junk mail, but they can involve some heavy duty configuration headaches, and they don't always work for all the different flavors of mail you get, like POP, IMAP, online services like Gmail, and such.

It may be time to take a look at MailWasher. It's easy to install and set up, so you'll notice a decrease in spam shortly. You can preview messages on the server to start with, and teach this tool what SPAM is to you. Once you get it configured, turn it loose and good bye SPAM. If you happen to get over-zealous, there's a built-in recycle bin, so you can undelete those accidentally trashed messages.

MailWasher is a free download. It's a Windows app and should run under Win2k and later. If you need tech support, you'll need to upgrade to their "Pro" version, but frankly it all looks pretty straightforward.

Download MailWasher

Quick and easy file creation

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of ShellMenuNew

When you want to create a new file, most of the time you just fire-up the application that works with those files, choose File >> New from the menu, and go from there. Make your edits, tweak your tweaks, and then save the document, picture, or code module to whatever directory you want it to land in. That's the way you've always done it. It's reasonably quick, but having to navigate up and down the directory tree to find your new file's ultimate location can be a bit of a pain in the neck.

If you've noodled around in Windows for a while, you know there's another way to create new files. In Windows Explorer, if you first navigate to a particular directory and then right-click your mouse. In the context menu that comes up, you see "New" down at the bottom. Mouse over that and you get a flyout menu that lists new file types you can create. Click on one of those and you get a new Word DOC, a new Photoshop PSD, or some other new file. It's quicker, it's easier, and your new file is in the right place right out of the gate—no more navigating all over the place when you save your file.

ShellMenuNew lets you play with the types of files you can create in this way. Fire it up, and you'll get a list of all the file types in your Registry that you can create "New" in this way. Want to disable one? Piece of cake. And if you're smart (or brave), you can go into the Registry and tweak the particulars for a given entry. Just remember, though, that editing the Registry by hand can do great things, or it can turn your nice computer into a not-so-nice boat anchor.

ShellMenuNew is a free download. It's a Windows application and will run under Windows 2000 and later.

Download ShellMenuNew

Timer, reminder, and scheduler for computer events

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Marxio Timer

There are all kinds to timers, schedulers, and reminders out there. If you've got a hectic life (and who doesn't) then you probably either already use one of them or you are planning to sometime soon. They're great for human-centric events like meetings and appointments, but they can be more or less useful for automating actions on your computer.

Marxio Timer takes the idea of a reminder and applies it to your system. Schedule an action to take place at a particular time: shut your machine down, run a program, take a screenshot, or more. And you can base these on things other than clock time or elapsed time, maybe choosing to do something when a particular program ends (shut your system down after completing a backup?), or even when CPU usage hits a particular level or network traffic spikes. It puts a status widget in the System Tray so you'll remember that it's running without taking up a lot of on-screen real estate.

You can download this application for free and use it on your Windows system. Technically it's "donationware", so if you find it useful or use it often, you might throw a few coins at these guys via PayPal.

Download Marxio Timer

Turn your static PDFs into flipable catalogs and product lists

Friday, February 19th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Youblisher

Using a web site is a pretty cool way to tell your story. Put up a couple of pages about your Widget business, and the world will beat a path to your (virtual) door. Recite a brief history of Widgets, demonstrate your state-of-the-art Widget manufacturing process, let everybody know why you are The Widget King.

While web pages give you an easy way to get in your customer's' face, you can't always control what those pages look like. Everybody's browser interprets the HTML code behind your pages just a little differently. A page on Firefox doesn't always look like that same page viewed with Internet Explorer or Safari. That means that your catalog may look a bit off when people look at it. If you want consistency in visual presentation, you need to PDF that product information.

Youblisher takes your PDFs—product lists, multi-page brochures, and such—and fiddles with them to make them behave more like printed catalogs. Then you can use your mouse to flip pages just like a real catalog. Upload your document and these folks convert your PDF into a Flash movie that they host, that supports this flip-through-it behavior. Your users have quick access to your document, and they don't have to download a PDF and fire up Adobe Reader to look at it.

Youblisher is a free online service. All you need to use it is a PDF to upload and a Flash-enabled browser to look at the results.

Download Youblisher