Archive for April, 2010

Rename files with Rename

Friday, April 30th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Rename

Some people are never satisfied. Give 'em cake and they want pie. Give 'em a bunch of files and they don't like the file names. Well, it's not so easy to convert cake to pie, but you can, with a reasonable effort, rename files.

Tweaking the name of a file or three in Finder isn't the biggest deal in the world. Once you go much beyond that number, however, the task starts to get a bit more tedious. That's where it's handy to have a dedicated file renaming tool to help you with the job.

Rename—an aptly named tool if ever there were one—is an app to rename files. You can change one file or a whole pile of them. While it's not a full-featured renaming tool—you can't do a find-and-replace type of rename, for example, it can do an adequate job of adding or removing text from the beginning or end of your filenames, including serializing them. It also lets you stuff Spotlight Tags into your files, but it appears to stick the same tag into all of them—useful if you're marking your vacation photos with "Our Trip to the Shore" or some such.

A free download, Rename is a Mac application. It's happy as a clam running under OS X Tiger (10.4).

Download Rename

Dia draws delightful digital diagrams

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Dia

Diagrams make the world go round. Try to explain a process of any complexity just verbally, and often you will be met with a vacant stare, or the sound of papers being shuffled. Either way, you can be sure your point has not been made.

Dia is a free drawing tool. Aimed at folks who want to draw diagrams, it takes its inspiration from Visio, the tried-and-true flowchart, orgchart, and UML drawing application. With various floating windows and palettes/toolbars, you can rearrange your workspace to put your most important go-to tools within easy reach. Built-in symbols make it easy to put all the pieces together; add a couple of lines and arrows and you've got a new network design, or you've promoted yourself into a corner office—on paper, at least. It may not have all the spit and polish of Visio, but if your diagramming needs run to the less formal, and your wallet runs to the less full, it may be just what you're looking for.

Dia is a free download, You can grab a Windows installer, or packages for several flavors of Linux. There are reports that it can be compiled under OS X, but you're going to have to be made of strong stuff to go down that road.

Download Dia

Service creates animated GIF files

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of MakeAGif

Everybody knows that movies—moving pictures—don't really move. By presenting a series of still images in rapid succession, our brain does the "tweening" to make it look to our brain like we are seeing actual movement. The same applies to TV, but without the sticky floors and stale popcorn of the movie theater. And of course, you've seen motion on your computer screen as well.

Ever since way back when, GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) image files have had the ability to display animation. Like with movies and TV, they do this by presenting a series of "frames", each one an individual static image. Run them together and it looks like you're seeing movement. Cool.

So how do you build your own animated GIF? There are lots of high-priced tools you can use for this task, or you can take advantage of the MakeAGif service. Just point your browser to their website, and you can upload your individual images—yes, you do have to draw, paint, or otherwise create those single frames—and they will automagically be transformed into a single animated GIF file, suitable for posting to your website, or for whatever other use you have in mind.

MakeAGif is a free service. You'll need a browser and a couple of pictures to use it.

Download MakeAGif

Drag and drop file format conversion

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Dragoman

Did you ever get a file—probably an important one—in a format you couldn't open because you didn't have the right application? That FLAC audio file or RAR archive isn't going to do you any good if you can't open it. You need to be able to convert files from what you can't use into files you can use.

Dragoman is a Mac-based batch file conversion tool. It does the standard stuff—convert your images to PDFs or turn Word DOCs into text files—but also maybe some things you didn't expect, like converting between various archive formats. It's easy to use—the "drag" part of its name suggests the type of interface, although the Help file explains that the word is actually of Middle Eastern origin and means "translator".

Just drag your document or media file onto the app. It recognizes the type of file you've got and displays an appropriate list of file formats that you can choose from to do your conversion. It supports a pretty good sized list of archive, audio, image, and text file formats, and even though there are some popular formats it can't translate into, even some of those can serve as the source for translation into formats it can work with.

Dragoman is a free Mac application. It runs under OS X version 10.4 (Tiger) and later.

Download Dragoman

Deck out your system with a free Wallpaper Clock

Monday, April 26th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Wallpaper Clock

It's nice to have an interesting image for your desktop wallpaper. Whether you're making an artistic- or maybe political statement, or just want something pretty, wallpaper can fill the bill. But it does tend to just sit there. I suppose that makes sense—after all the wallpaper in your dining room just sits there, right?

If you'd like for your wallpaper to earn its keep, maybe it's time to change your wallpaper. Maybe it's time to take a look at Wallpaper Clock. As its name might lead you to believe, these selections of wallpaper also serve as a clock on your computer. Specifically, these wallpapers update the time shown once a minute, so you're always up to date, even if your system clock isn't showing. There are bunches of different designs available to choose from, so you'll probably find one that works for you.

Wallpaper Clock selections are available for free; just find one you like and download it. For full functionality, you need to also grab a clock engine application to run the show. These are available for free as well for Windows, Mac, Linux, and even iPhone. Note that the "recommended" Windows app is only a 30-day trial, but in the "Other programs…" list below it on the download page, there are other free apps to choose from.

Download Wallpaper Clock

Create family trees and more with Gramps

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Gramps

Who are you? That may seem to be an overly broad question, but it can serve as a jumping off point for a much bigger discussion. You do this job, and live in that town. You drive such-and-such a car, and prefer to eat this-or-that for dinner. Another part of the "who are you" question is that of where you come from. Who are your parents? And theirs? How long have you and your folks been here—maybe recent immigrants, maybe you can trace your line back to the Mayflower. No matter what your situation, you can learn a lot about yourself if you can learn about those who came before you.

With popular TV shows like PBS's "Faces of America" and NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are", more and more people are going to start looking into their own backgrounds. Collecting information and stories is interesting, but keeping track of it all can be a challenge. To help with that, there's Gramps, a piece of genealogical research software. You've got to do the research, but this tool will help you to keep track of and systematize what you find. You can slice and dice your data so that you can better understand who all these people are and make more sense of the times and places where your ancestors lived. And of course the ability to look at graphical family trees can help make the information contained in them more meaningful, since you can now begin to see relationships there and get a better sense of who these people were.

Gramps is a free download. While it's really geared toward Linux systems, there are ports available for Windows and Mac users as well.

Download Gramps

Another free PDF reader

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Sumatra PDF

Adobe's Acrobat Reader is a free download. It lets you open, read, and print PDF files. Who could ask for anything more? How about anything less.

Sumatra PDF is a free PDF reader, just like the Adobe tool, but it's designed specifically to be small It's only one file, and installing it doesn't mess with your system. In fact, you can stick it on a USB drive and go on your way, since installing it doesn't write anything to the Registry. While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Adobe tool, you can still get done most of what you need to do: open PDFs, scroll by line or page, zoom in and out, show bookmarks, and even copy text to the clipboard. If you really want to tweak this app, there are a bunch of command-line arguments you can supply as well, to re-open a file to a specific page or tweak the display.

A Windows application, Sumatra PDF runs under Win2000 and later.

Download Sumatra PDF

Snip a bit of code with Snippely

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Snippely

There's a whole school of programming—a pretty smart one it seems—that suggests that you should never write the same code twice. There's no point in re-inventing the wheel, and there's certainly no point in solving the same programming problem twice. Reusing code is a great time saver.

The problem here, of course, is going back and finding that clever code you wrote so that you can re-use it. After all, it doesn't matter how smart you were in solving that problem or coding that algorithm if you can't find it to use it again. This may be a job for Snippely.

More than just a snippet container, Snippely adds syntax highlighting to your code. That means that even if you didn't bother to comment your code thoroughly, you'll still be able to figure out what it's supposed to do. Sort your code so you can find things, and don't worry about saving stuff—it's all updated to a local database in real time.

Snippely runs on the Adobe AIR platform. That means it should be at home on any OS that supports AIR, including Linux, Macintosh, and Windows.

Download Snippely

Keep track of your personal medical information

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of HeyDoc!

For the past year now, healthcare has been on everybody's mind, and has certainly made a lion's share of the newscasts. No matter how you feel about the discussions in Washington, it's clear that it's an important topic. And what about your own personal healthcare? There's a lot to keep track of, with immunizations, allergies, medications, and various routine procedures like annual checkups, colonoscopies, and more. It's tough to stay on top of it all, and easy for things to fall through the cracks.

HeyDoc! is a tool that can help you stay in charge of your own healthcare, and that of your family as well. It's a personal database of all things medical for you. Need to know when the last time was you had a particular procedure? Don't dig through old receipts—just look it up. Kids heading off to camp? Print out their medical info so the staff will know of any special concerns. And it's got the ability to scan documents, so you can keep track of treatment plans and prescriptions from your doctor.

Privacy is a big concern. With HeyDoc! it's not an issue: everything is stored on your local machine rather than on a network somewhere, so you have absolute control over what happens to your data.

HeyDoc! is a free Windows application.

Download HeyDoc!

Find your windows

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of AquaSnap

Big displays often mean lots of apps running simultaneously. It's been said that nature abhors a vacuum; I suppose a corollary of that is that large monitors want to be full of stuff. Unfortunately, once you get several windows open on there, it can be a pain in the neck to try to find the one you're really interested in working with. If you find yourself spending too much of your day [Alt] + [Tab]-ing your way around, maybe it's time to get organized.

AquaSnap makes it easy to take control of the real estate on your desktop. Rather than spending a lot of time dragging windows around, and then adjusting sizes with resize handles, you just drag and drop your application windows to the sides or corners of your display, to automatically resize them to half or a quarter of your screen respectively. You can even choose a window to keep always on top. No more hunting for the window you want.

In spite of its "Aqua" name, AquaSnap is a Windows application (Aqua being the name of the user interface used under OS X on Mac). It runs under Win2k and later, including both 32- and 64-bit flavors.

Download AquaSnap