Archive for February, 2010

A free program to learn music

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of LenMus

If you enjoy music, you may want to know more about it. For some folks, making music means firing up their iPod or turning on the radio, but for others, they'd like to participate instead of just watching the process as a spectator sport.

You can read a lot about music and learn tons about its history, but when it comes to actually making music, it's often easiest to learn with a teacher or tutor working with you. Things like recognizing intervals by ear require that you listen to somebody play a piano or some other instrument so that you can actually hear the difference between a Minor Third and Major Third, or correctly identify a Perfect Fourth ("Here comes the bride…") or a Major Sixth (N-B-C). You can't do that yourself, because you're learning, so you may be out of luck. Or you can try LenMus.

This free application can help you to listen and identify intervals, chords, and more. In addition, it's got a built-in score editor, so you can practice such things as writing key signatures and simple musical lines.

LenMus is a Windows application.

Download LenMus

Free online CRM tool

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Javelin

If you sell stuff or services to people, then you need to keep track of those people. Sure, some stuff is sold just one-off and you'll never hear from those customers again. But if you really want to make money, you want to be able to sell to your customers again and again. Collecting and tracking information about how to contact them, what their needs are, and how you've been taking care of them is vital. In the simplest case you can do this with a spreadsheet or even an address book application, but if you really want to get serious about it, you need to look at a dedicated customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

There are some very good—and very expensive— CRM apps out there. If you've got a ton of money and nothing better to do with it, you might just want to help yourself. But if you want to save a buck (or several of them), take a look at Javelin.

Javelin is a free online tool. Sure, it can help you track your customers, but it also has the flexibility to let you keep an eye on prospects (turning them into customers), vendors, and more. Add your own custom tags to organize things in ways that you work. Share contact information with co-workers, so everybody's on the same page. Track email and attachments, and you've got a full picture of your interaction with your clients. And since it's all online, that means you can access your information from anywhere. They also take care of backing things up, so you'll never have to say "oops" after your server crashes, and of courseyou'll never have to do a system upgrade, since you didn't install anything.

While they do offer a paid version, the Free Edition allows for two users and up to 250 contacts. While that might not be enough for a bigger company, if you're running lean-and-mean, that may be just the right number.

You don't need anything fancy to use Javelin. Once you sign up, you just use your regular web browser to access this free tool.

Download Javelin

Right click to get image width and height information

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Dimensionizer

If you're a blogger worth your salt, you're uploading pictures to support your posts. If you create web pages, you're adding visual interest by sticking some photos, drawings, and other stuff up there as well. Dealing with all those images can be a bit of a pain.

Take image sizes, for example. For your visitors to have the best online experience, their web browsers appreciate it when your web page tells them what size your images are. Unfortunately it's not always easy to know what those width and height numbers are. Finder won't tell you, so often it means that you have to fire up your favorite high-powered image editor and look at image properties to find out what size they are. That's a bit like using a canon to swat at mosquitos. That's where Dimensionizer comes in.

This little tool puts image size information into the context (right click) menu for you. Just right-click on an image file in Finder and you'll get the filename along with the height and width of the image and the image resolution to boot. Now you can add that important information to your web pages and know that you've given your visitors a hand. Their browsers will love you for it.

Dimensionizer is a free Mac application. It requires OS X version 10.2 or later.

Download Dimensionizer

Collaborate with free online outliner tool

Monday, February 15th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Thinklinkr

If you're working in an organization that's bigger than what you can fit in your bedroom closet, you've got folks who need to work together. While everybody may have their individual responsibilities, they've got to at least talk to each other to coordinate those activities. And if you're working on a project, then there's a lot collaboration going on. There are plenty of tools that can help you with this, but here's one that takes a slightly different tack than the others.

Thinklinkr is an online collaborative outliner. Instead of sharing documents or supporting elaborate video chats, this tool just lets you work together on outlines. While this methodology doesn't work for everybody, for some folks the ability to organize information hierarchically is the way to really get things done. With Thinklinkr, you can share outlines and get everybody's input in real time. It tracks revisions, so you can go back and revisit earlier versions and decisions. If you're working on multiple projects, you can create multiple outlines.

Thinklinkr is a free service. All you need to do to take advantage of it is to have a web browser and in Internet connection.

Download Thinklinkr

Find and remove empty directories

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Vanity Remover

After you've used your system long enough, your nice, clean, pristine hard drive is all full of junk. You've got apps you've downloaded, installed, and then removed. You've got duplicate files. And in many cases, you've got empty directory folders that once held great hope but now hold—nothing! Nobody in their right mind is going to go on an all-day expedition looking for empty directories, but still it would be nice to be rid of them.

Vanity Remover is a tool with a single purpose: it finds and deletes empty directories. Pick a starting point, and it will traverse the directory structure recursively from there on down as deep as it goes. If you start at the top, it will find every empty directory on your drive. As with all good GUI apps, you can type that starting directory into the textbox, you can browse to your directory, or just drag-and-drop a folder into the application's main window. No matter how you get there, all you need to do is click the button, and they'll all automagically disappear.

So what's the deal with the name? I know about vanity as "I'm all that and a bag of chips." I'm familiar with the bathroom fixture that incorporates a sink, countertop, and enclosed cabinet. But "vanity" referring to file folders? Not too sure on that one. Perhaps lost in translation.

Vanity Remover is a free Windows application.

Download Vanity Remover

Ditto makes your clipboard even more valuable

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Ditto

Clipboard add-ons can be a helpful way to extend the functionality of one of the best features of modern GUI operating systems: the system clipboard. Copying and pasting between documents and applications makes life much smoother by letting us all work more efficiently. Added functionality makes it all even better.

Ditto is a tool that lets you extend your clipboard's capabilities. It can deal with both text and images, and even some formatting, and it keeps a history so you can paste not only the last thing you copied, but stuff you were working on a while ago as well. It's easy to search through all your clipboard entries to find what you're looking for. It lets you edit information on the clipboard, and you can paste plain text into an application, even if you copied it as formatted text.

Ditto is a free Windows application.

Download Ditto

PDF web pages with PdfMyUrl

Friday, February 12th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of PdfMyUrl

It's no news that there are about a zillion web pages out there. Some are interesting, some not so much. Sometimes just looking at a page is all you're interested in: now you know the current temperature, closing stock prices, that kind of thing. Other times you may want to go back to check on things as they change and evolve: updates to a news site, new software releases, etc. Then there are the sites that contain interesting goodies that you want to hang on to. Sure, you can set a bookmark and go back and visit them again, but sometimes you want to grab a page to keep on your machine; maybe you're going to be spending a lot of time looking at it, or maybe you're going to be offline for a while and want to bring that page with you.

PdfMyUrl is a helpful online service that lets you save any web page as a PDF file. All you do is type or paste the URL for the page you want to save into its text field and press the magic button, and it will automatically PDF the whole page for you, including images and hyperlinks. While most browsers let you save a web page as something with a name like "web page complete," typically the "complete" means a separate folder chock full of images, scripts, and various other individual files. If you save it all as a PDF, then you've got one file rather than a pile of individual ones to have to deal with. The PDFs created by PdfMyUrl include live links as well, so you can still navigate with through those links the next time you're online, if you want.

A free service, PdfMyUrl shouldn't require anything other than a web browser and an Internet connection—as well as a suitably interesting web site to save—in order to do the deed.

Download PdfMyUrl

Tool helps add, edit, and remove junction points

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Junction Link Magic

Computers are complicated beasts. Press a key or click a button, and you initiate all kinds of actions inside that box. Sometimes that complication goes outside of the box. If you've ever had to dig through directory after directory to find a particular file, then you know first-hand that it can be a challenge. Fortunately, along with the complexity comes the opportunity for little tricks to speed things up.

Whether you call them shortcuts, aliases, or links, there is an easier way to get to that file way down inside the file system. Junction Link Magic is one tool you can use for this. This app lets you build "junction points", basically links to other directories on your system. That way instead of having to dig down deep through all those directories, you click on that junction point and are automatically transferred to that directory, and that can be a real timesaver. In addition to creating junction points, the interface for this tool can also help you to identify symbolic links and mount points in the filesystem as well.

Junction Link Magic is a free Windows application. It should be compatible with systems running Windows 2000 and later.

Download Junction Link Magic

You deserve a nice new cursor

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Cursor Editor

Not everything you do on your computer has to be serious. Sure, you've got spreadsheets and reports to work on and all that, but sometimes it's nice to just kick back and have a little fun. So how long has it been since you had a new cursor?

Cursor Editor lets you create a whole pile of new cursors. You can make them plain or fancy, static or animated, and more. Import images or draw them yourself, whichever you prefer. Build a whole set so that you've covered not only "normal", but also all the various resize, move, and busy cursors as well. And once you get one you really like, you can share it with the world as part of the publisher's free online library.

A free download, Cursor Editor is a Windows application. You should be able to use with on systems running Win2k and later.

Download Cursor Editor

Add the missing pieces to Finder

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of TotalFinder

If you use a Mac, then you know all about Finder, the program manager you love to hate. Sure, it gets the job done, but why are some things just so darn hard? The cavalry has just arrived.

TotalFinder gives you a bunch of features that Apple probably should have already put in Finder but didn't. Like tabs. Everybody's got tabs, but not Finder. Instead of having half-a-dozen Finder windows open on your desktop, open just one and fill it with tabs. A hot key brings up the Finder window from wherever you are; no more hunting for an icon to click on. And it deals with the dreaded .DS_Store files in a way that makes more sense. It'll even show you hidden files if you want.

TotalFinder is a free (for now) Mac application. They're threatening to start charging at some point down the road, so you may want to grab it while you can. It requires OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) to run.

Download TotalFinder