Archive for March, 2010

Keep track of sub(mission)s with Sonar

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Sonar

If you write for a living, you need to keep track of where and to whom you have submitted your pieces. After all, if you just send your work off into the ether, you'll never know when it's going to be published—or when you're going to get paid. Sure, if you've just inked a seven-figure deal to write your autobiography, you're probably going to have handlers to help keep an eye on things, but if you're publishing shorter pieces, you're probably on your own.

Sonar is a tool you can use to keep track of subs (submissions). Enter each of your creations into this app, and then go to town. Keep track of who you submitted it to and when, and update your records when it's sold (hooray!) or rejected (whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger). Sort by status, date, or just about anything else. You can enter unlimited length notes and comments as well. And the best part for a struggling (or smart) writer is that it's totally free.

Sonar runs under Windows. You'll need to have WinXP installed, as well as version 2.0 of the .NET Framework.

Download Sonar

Empty the Trash automatically with TrashTimer

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of TrashTimer

Is "Move to Trash" your favorite command? As you work through your day, writing this and drawing that, you generate a bunch of junk—or at least "works in progress"—that you delete as you continue to fine-tune your work. Since you're getting better and better you know that you're not going to want to re-use this stuff; after all, you did throw it in the Trash. But as you know, just 'cause you threw it away doesn't mean that that file or document has really gone away. It just sits there waiting for you to decide what to do about it.

TrashTimer is an app for your Mac that automatically empties the Trash for you. You choose the frequency—maybe once an hour, maybe once a day—and all your junk will magically disappear. Once the Trash is emptied, you get that disk space back, so you can continue to create cool stuff. This tool is a preference panel instead of a "regular" app, so it's not going to take up any space on your Dock.

Since it's a Universal Binary, TrashTimer will run on your PowerPC or Intel-flavored Mac. It runs under OS X 10.3 and later.

Download TrashTimer

HTML editing is a breeze with PageBreeze

Monday, March 29th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of PageBreeze

If you're really taking control of your website, you know there's no substitute for getting in there and getting your hands dirty editing your code directly. Sure, there are tools you can use that insulate you from the vagaries of HTML and stylesheet syntax, but that extra layer of separation between you and the code is going to inject assumptions about your page that may not be accurate. If you want anything done right, you've got to do it yourself.

PageBreeze is a free HTML editor. Along with the text editing functionality you need to get in there and work on your code, it also features a WYSIWYG mode, helpful for when you first rough-out your new page. It's also got a built-in preview mode, so you can see what your finished page is going to look like while you're working on it. This display is powered by Internet Explorer, so what you see is really what your visitors will see as well. It's got other handy built-in tools, like a form generator. If you've ever had to build a web form from scratch, you know that this can be a real time saver. And website templates: there's nothing like staring at the blank screen and trying to figure out how to start.

If you want to use PageBreeze for personal, non-profit, or educational purposes, you're in luck: it's free! If you want to use it in conjunction with your business, you need to upgrade to their Professional version for a few bucks. You'll need Windows 9x or later, as well as a copy of IE 4.0 or better to use this tool.

Download PageBreeze

Multipurpose Windows Gizmo

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Wizmo

You're familiar with the applications you use every day. Web browser, email client, word processing tool, spreadsheet—you use these all the time. But if you dig down into some of the lower-level stuff on your computer, especially some of the system commands, your familiarity rolls off rapidly. Maybe you need to put your system to sleep, or you'd like to start the screensaver right now instead of after twenty minutes of inactivity, but who can remember how to do all that stuff—or even where to look?

Wizmo is a neat little tool written by Steve Gibson, the ShieldsUP! guy. It's a "Windows gizmo" that puts a nice front end on a bunch of little Windows tweaks and adjustments. You can use it to feed your system various shutdown commands (standby, hibernate, reboot), cycle your optical drive open and closed, invoke your screensaver, and more.

How much would expect to pay for such a tool? Well, this is your lucky day: Wizmo is a free download.

Download Wizmo

Online school organizer

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of GradeMate

School is hard. Whether you're teaching or learning, there's a lot to keep track of. It's enough work to keep track of all the facts—who is buried in Grant's Tomb anyway?—but when you add on top of that all the administrivia of keeping track of homework assignments, exam schedules, study group meetings and more, it's a wonder anything really gets done.

GradeMate is an online service that may give both the student and the teacher a hand. It's got a built-in calendar, so it's easy to track assignments and quizzes. You can set up reminders to that end-of-the-term paper isn't forgotten. Track your grades or the grades of your students. You can even share files, notes and more with your classmates.

GradeMate is available for free. All you need is a web browser, and you're on your way to your Ph.D.

Download GradeMate

Put a recording studio on your computer

Friday, March 26th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Jokosher

Back in the day, if you needed to do some serious audio recording, you had to go out and rent Abbey Road Studios, or some other equally expensive venue. Fast forward to today, where your computer has the potential to turn your office or living room into a similarly equipped space, if you add the right software to your system.

Jokosher is a multitrack recording studio that lives on your computer. Starting with its easy-to-use interface, you'll be able to record your next podcast or demo record in no time. Once you've laid down your tracks, you can go back and massage them into just what you were looking for—play with the volume, move voices around, add or remove instruments, the whole thing. You can also import and export just about all regular audio formats, so you can add them to the mix or create just the right format to upload or burn to optical media.

Jokosher is available in versions for both Windows and Linux platforms.

Download Jokosher

Become a fan of Disk Space Fan

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Disk Space Fan

Some times the same old information can give you new insights when it's presented in a different way. Reading a book and listening to somebody else read that same book to you book are two different experiences, even though both of these are dealing with the same data.

You've seen those applications that scan your hard drive and then give you back a graphic that represents all the files and directories on your system. Usually the results are reported out as big squares and rectangles, the sizes of which correspond to the relative sizes of the chunks of your hard drive that they represent. Disk Space Fan is a variation on this theme.

Instead of rectangular blocks, this app creates a fan-shaped chart, where your files are represented by arcs in widening concentric circles. Choose your target, whether it's a whole drive, or just a specific directory, press the button, and go. It reports back what it finds in graphical form, as well as giving file sizes in tabular form. Maybe this will be the breakthrough you were looking for in managing the space on your hard drive.

Disk Space Fan is a Windows application. You can use it on systems running WinXP (SP2 and later), Vista, and Windows 7.

Download Disk Space Fan

It's like a tune-up for your computer

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Advanced SystemCare

Your computer is a complicated place (or thing or person, if you're really involved). With all the bits and pieces operating together in perfect harmony, it's a wonder of modern engineering. When it's out of whack, it's a colossal mess. That's when you need serious help to set things right.

Advanced SystemCare is like a Swiss Army knife, in that it's got a tool for just about everything that might happen to your system. It'll tune up your Registry, delete leftovers from incomplete uninstalls, defragment your hard drive, check for spyware and adware, and generally tidy things up for you under the hood. And maybe best of all, they claim that they can do all this good stuff fast. After all, there's nothing like knowing you need to clean up your system because it's gotten all bogged down, only to find that the fix will take hours to complete.

A Windows application, Advanced SystemCare is compatible with both 32- and 64-bit systems, and runs under Windows 2000 and later, all the way up to Windows 7.

Download Advanced SystemCare

Fun with file associations

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Open-With Manager

Arguably one of the better inventions to come down the pike, computer-wise, is the "context menu"—the "right click" menu—that lets you do much more than open or delete files. Among the more important items in that menu is the "Open With" choice. Sure, double-clicking on a document will generally open an application that's associated with it, this isn't always the desired result. Take an HTML file, for example. If you want to look at it as a web page, it would be nice to have it open in browser; however, if you want to edit it, you'd like to have it opened in your text editor, thank you very much.

Open-With Manager is a tool you can use to fine-tune your your system works. On an application-by-application basis, you can choose which file types you want them to be available to open. If you always want your PDFs to open in Adobe Reader and never-ever want them to open in Preview, this may be just the tool for you. As an added bonus, this app also tweaks the behavior of apps when you drag-and-drop documents onto their icons.

Open-With Manager is a Mac application. It's a Universal Binary, so it's right at home on either a PowerPC or an Intel-powered Mac. It runs under OS X version 10.4 and later.

Download Open-With Manager

Dynamic DNS service for websites without fixed addresses

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of DynDNS

The best website in the world doesn't do anybody any good if they can't find it. The ability to find a site—or anything else on the Internet—depends on the Domain Name System and its capability of taking human-readable addresses like "example.com" and translating them into addresses that computers can understand like "192.0.32.10". Most web sites have a fixed address; Google will always be at google.com, Twitter is at twitter.com, and so forth. So what about web sites that don't have a fixed address?

Suppose you want to host a site at home or at work. Now suppose you don't have a fixed address. Maybe you're on a dial-up connection—in which case you should seriously think about not hosting—or more likely you are on a broadband connection that doesn't include a fixed IP address. How will anybody find you if you're never in the same place twice?

DynDNS is a service for situations like that. You install a little app that lets their servers know what your current address is, and when people want to visit your site, they are directed through some back-end sleight-of-hand to your site, even though it's not located in the same place today that it was yesterday. They've got an update client for both Windows and Mac servers, and give some instructions for how to configure a Linux server as well. So now you can host a server at home (subject to your ISP's terms of service) and people can actually find you.

Download DynDNS