Archive for May, 2010

Manage ebooks with Calibre

Monday, May 31st, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Calibre

E-books are everywhere. But if "everywhere" includes your hard drive, and everywhere on it, then it's probably time to do something about it and clean up the mess. A tool like Calibre might be the way to go.

This free ebook management application can help you get a handle on what you've got. It recognizes—and can deal with—several different formats. You can sort your stuff by title, author, and more. It also lets you add tags and comments, so you can organize things in ways that make the most sense to you. It can even go online and help you find info on your materials based on title/author and ISBN, And it's written modularly, so if there's some great organizational breakthrough that comes along, you don't have to scrap that whole system and start over.

In addition to working with your current ebooks, this app can also go out and grab news off the Web and convert it into ebook format. It's got built-in support for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, and more; or you can go out on a limb and write a conversion for your favorite site yourself and share it with the community.

And finally, it can act as an ebook server, allowing you to access all your titles from anywhere via the Web.

Calibre is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows systems.

Download Calibre

Generate secure passwords easily

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Infinite Password Generator

Passwords are only as good as their strength. You know the drill: no dictionary words; longer is better; mix 'em up with alphabetic characters (upper- and lower case), numbers, symbols; use different passwords in different places; and all that. With so much hanging on the strength of those passwords, it's not something to play around with.

Remembering all those passwords can be a challenge, so there are lots of "password locker" tools out there that help keep track of them for you. What there doesn't seem to be as many of are apps that help you create those super-duper extra secure passwords.

Infinite Password Generator can give you a hand with this important task. You supply a master password and a keyword for each password you want to generate, and this tool will employ an MD5 algorithm to generate a password that will be next to impossible to hack, yet if you happen to lose of forget it, you can re-generate that password based on the keyword. No more having to fear that if your password list goes away that all will be lost.

A free download, Infinite Password Generator is a Windows application.

Download Infinite Password Generator

Play Lady of Spain on your computer with Accordion

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Accordion

"Virtual reality" is an interesting concept: reality that isn't real. That's a tough one to wrap your head around. Even if you aren't completely plugged into that, there are little pieces of unreal-reality we deal with all the time. Like TV. Or radio. Watching or listening to things that we think of as real, even through we're really only looking at a box with a window on the front of it, or listening to another box with a bunch of holes in it.

The world of things that are virtually real extends to musical instruments as well. Like synthesizers. These are instruments that aren't really instruments, but they sure do sound like them. Or at least some of them do. Your computer's got the smarts to play that game. There are all kinds of apps out there that let you play piano on your keyboard, or tap out a rhythm on your laptop's touchpad. But what about that most maligned musical instrument of all: the accordion?

Whether its reputation as the instrument that anybody who's cool loves to hate is earned or not, it is kind of the laughingstock of musical instruments. Whether it's some stodgy old polka or the latest Weird Al send-up, you can't help but laugh when somebody fires on of these up (although we did have the opportunity several years ago to hear a 50-instrument accordion band play The Beatles' I Want You (She's So Heavy) to impressive effect at the Cotati Accordion Festival.

Well, now you can have all the fun of the accordion in the privacy of your home or office with Accordion, a free accordion emulator app for Windows and Mac. You don't need any special hardware; you just turn your keyboard sideways and wail away on the keys to polka your brains out.

Accordion is a free download. It's available for both Windows and Mac.

Download Accordion

Build your own fonts for free

Friday, May 28th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of FontStruct

How many different fonts do you suppose there are out there? Your system comes with a bunch. Many of your applications add more to the mix. You can find third-party after-market fonts all over the place, some even for free. But what if, even with all these choices, you still don't find the font you're really looking for? Maybe it's time to make your own.

FontStruct is a website with a purpose: they let you design and build your own fonts. It's not really as complicated as you might think. Their online tool is easy to use, and they've got a demo to show you how it's done. Once you're finished you can download your handiwork, or share it with the world if you like. You can also browse the creations of others.

You need to create an account and log in to use this free service. And of course, you'll need a web browser to access the site.

Download FontStruct

A different application launcher

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Radian

Shortcuts can be quite useful. If the road from here to there takes a bunch of twists and turns before you arrive at your destination, it's going to take you longer to get there from here. But if you know the secret shortcut, you can potentially cut out a lot of hours and miles from your trip. Those smart people who work with software know all about this.

Whether you're looking at aliases, accelerator keys, or symbolic links, what you really have is a bunch of shortcuts. Rather than having to dig through the My Programs directory to find your app, you can click on a shortcut to start the program. Organize your shortcuts cleverly, maybe on your desktop, or in a menu, and you're going to get there even quicker. That's kind of the idea behind Windows' Start Menu and Quick Launch. That's also the idea behind Radian.

Radian is an application launcher that aims to help you get things done quicker. Now instead of having to dig through folders, or even click on menus, all you need to do is to right click on your screen. No matter where your mouse is on your screen, you've now got access to your Radian menu. Set it up with your most important or most used applications, and see whether your efficiency improves. It's designed in such a way that it shouldn't interfere with your other right-click commands, so you're not really sacrificing functionality that you're familiar with for this new tool.

A free download, Radian is a Windows application.

Download Radian

Save the path to your file to the clipboard

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of PathToClipboard

Where did I leave that file? In Windows Explorer, it's pretty easy to travel up and down the directory structure of your hard drive to get you to a particular file. But if you need to describe where that file is, it's a little bit trickier. Maybe you need to stick that path into a document you're working on. Or maybe you're at a command prompt and you need to pass a path-and-filename as an argument to a batch file. Not so easy now.

PathToClipboard is a tool that lets you capture the path of a file—or multiple files—to your clipboard. Once it's in there, it's a snap to paste it into your Word DOC, your DOS box, or wherever else you need that file information. You get to choose which piece you're interested in, since you can choose to grab just the file name, the directory path, or the whole shebang. What would you expect to pay for this, and are there any free steak knives?

PathToClipboard is a free Windows app. It runs under Windows 2000 and later, and requires version 2.0 of the .NET Framework. Sorry, no steak knives.

Download PathToClipboard

Drag and drop in two steps

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of XShelf

Do you ever get interrupted in the middle of something? Maybe somebody walks into the room. Maybe the phone rings. Maybe you have a "senior moment" and forget what you're doing. For some things, that's okay. If you're in the middle of a drag-and-drop file operation, that's not such a good thing. Once your finger comes up off that mouse button, there's no telling where that important file has landed. Maybe you'll find it, maybe you won't. Well, yes, you'll find it, but it's going to take you ten minutes to do so, and you might have better ways to spend that time. At times like this, it might be handy to have XShelf.

This app lets you move files around your system in stages. When you use Finder to move a file from Desktop into your Documents folder, typically you need to have windows for both folders visible on your screen at the same time. With XShelf, you grab your file and drag it into the XShelf window. Later, you drag it from there into your destination folder to complete the move. At that point, the drag-and-drop is completed, as if the intermediate step had never existed. You can set it to float on screen as its own window, or you can have it grab onto an edge of your display, like the Dock, so it's always available. You can even have it auto-hide so it's not taking up space when you're not using it.

XShelf is a free Mac application. The current version requires OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or later.

Download XShelf

Convert images to PDFs

Monday, May 24th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of i2pdf

We all know that PDFs are handy things to have. You can use them to share information with others. They're cross-platform, so if you're on a Windows machine, you can still share with Mac and Linux users, or any other combination of those. And since Acrobat Reader and many other PDF reader apps are free, cost in no object there either.

There are a number of different ways to create PDFs, some involving expensive tools, and others for free. Among the free entries here are plugins and printer drivers for use with apps like Word and its ilk. But what if, instead of text, you need to create PDFs from images instead? Your options may be more limited.

i2pdf (Image to PDF) is a free tool you can use to convert your pictures into full-blown PDF files. It's got a simple drag-and-drop interface, so it's pretty easy to convert your JPG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, and GIF files. And you get to choose compression, thumbnail info and more.

A free download, i2pdf runs under Windows. There are 32- and 64-bit versions available.

Download i2pdf

Add watermarks to your images

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of PhotoWham

It's nice to share. When you were a kid, mom told you to share your toys. Helped things run more smoothly in the sandbox. As an adult, sharing is still a pretty good idea. Letting your lunch companion nibble on a couple of your fries is a good thing. So how far do you want the sharing thing to go? If you share your french fries, you have pretty good control over what happens to them once they leave your plate. Share your vacation photos on the Web and you don't have that type of control.

PhotoWham is a tool that lets you watermark your pictures. It's nothing fancy: just the ability to label those photos, drawings, or what-have-you so that folks know whence they came. Just enter your text—including a copyright symbol if you want, and press the magic button. You can do individual images, drag-and-drop a handful at a time, or browse to a directory and grab 'em all. In addition to branding those photos, you can do some image resizing and even rename files or move them into a new folder.

Available for free for home use, you should be able to use PhotoWham with Windows XP and later.

Download PhotoWham

Easily edit PDF meta data with PDF Properties Changer

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of PDF Properties Changer

Portable Document Format (PDF) files are used for everything. Whether you need to download tax forms, read user documentation, or whatever, there's probably a PDF document involved at some level. You can even create your own PDF files. Whether you buy a zillion dollar copy of Adobe Acrobat, or grab a free print-to-PDF print driver, you can put your words into PDF format and share them with the world. Along with the text and images of your document, the PDF file format has space for lots of meta data—things like title, subject, keywords, and more. And most of the time you can't do anything to create, manipulate, or delete that data. Until you get your hands on PDF Properties Changer.

With this free tool, editing that almost-hidden meta information is a simple as right-clicking on the file. Open up the Document Properties window and now you have access to all that data. Use it to store specific information about your files—what's in 'em, who wrote 'em, all of that. Use it on one file at a time, or tweak a whole bunch at the same time.

PDF Properties Changer is a free download. It's a Windows app, and runs under XP and Vista.

Download PDF Properties Changer