Archive for July, 2010

Take control of your browser with BashFlash

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of BashFlash

Everybody likes pretty pictures. Whether it's a still photo that's worth a thousand words, or the latest viral video that everybody's talking about, there's certainly no end of non-text information out there on the Web. While we do enjoy the pix and clips, sometimes we'd rather not have to deal with them. After all, just 'cause you love liver and onions doesn't mean you want to have them for breakfast.

BashFlash is a tool you can use to dial back on Flash movies. Maybe your Internet connection speed is running a bit slow today, or perhaps you're on your laptop out in the middle of nowhere and don't want to run down your battery on this stuff. Either way, now you can be in complete control.

When you fire it up, it lives on the Menubar, so you're not losing a bunch of screen real estate or further filling your already-bloated Dock. You can run it at will, or have it start when you login.

BashFlash is a Mac application. It's available for Intel-powered machines, and runs under OS X 10.5 and 10.6 (Leopard and Snow Leopard) with various combinations of Safari, Firefox, and Google's Chrome browser.

Download BashFlash

Add right-click file upload to Finder with OneWay

Friday, July 30th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of OneWay

If you're responsible for the care and feeding of a website, then you know all about having to move files around: upload changes to the server, download stuff that's been added remotely, add to offsite archives. Moving documents, images, and other files around like this generally involves some variation on FTP, file transfer protocol. Whether you use garden variety FTP, or one of its more secure siblings, you need a tool to make the magic happen. If you're on a Mac, this might take the form of OneWay.

OneWay is tool that lets you upload files from within Finder. It does this by installing itself into the context (right click) menu that comes up when you use your favorite file manager. If you've got locations you use often, you can add them to the menu, meaning that uploads are just a simple right-click away. It supports FTP, SFTP, and even Amazon S3, so if you've got to move files, you can probably get there from here.

You can grab OneWay for free and run it on your Mac (OS X 10.5 or better).

Download OneWay

Open archive files with Universal Extractor

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Universal Extractor

How many different types of archive files do you suppose there are? The ability to take a bunch of files and either combine them all together so that they travel as a group (like TAR) or to squish them all into a compact little bundle (like ZIP files) is pretty handy. When you're presented with an archive file that you need to open up, hopefully it's in one of these, or some other commonly-recognized format. Unfortunately, there's a whole bunch of lesser-known (and used) formats out there than may not lend themselves to an easy unpacking job. For those, you may need a more robust tool, like Universal Extractor.

Universal Extractor might be likened to a Swiss Army knife, in that it's a tool of a thousand and one uses (or at least a couple dozen). You would probably have a hard time throwing an archive file at it that it didn't recognize, and having done so, it will dutifully extract the contents of that file for you to do with it what you will. What it won't do, however, is to create an archive file. This tool extracts files from an existing archive, but it won't create a new one where none previously existed. You can direct it to extract files to the directory where the archive file resides, or you can point it elsewhere to put your files in a more useful location. It integrates with the context (right click) menu of Windows Explorer, so you can drive it from there, rather than having to fire up a standalone app.

A free download, Universal Extractor is a Windows application.

Download Universal Extractor

PING is like Ghost but free

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of PING

Backups are good. Backups are important. Backups can help save your bacon when your system goes down and your data gets eaten. Okay, everybody can probably agree with that. But what about taking it to the next level? What if it's not just the data, but the whole system?

PING (Partimage Is Not Ghost—not the more-common ICMP echo request of Unix fame) is a tool that can help you through the really tough times. Like when your system completely dies. Or maybe when you've got a standard install that you want to use to clone a couple—or a whole enterprise—worth of machines. Since you've burned it to a CD (or DVD), you can boot from that disk and restore your drive, partitions and all. It's smart enough to work with networks, so you can do clones or restores to and from network volumes.

You can grab PING for free, making it much cheaper than a copy of Ghost, and use it with your Windows machine.

Download PING

Hide and show files with Ghost

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Ghost

Sometimes it's better not to see everything you're working with. If you've ever stashed your stuff quickly in a closet, or swept things under the rug (literally or figuratively) then you know that your life can go more smoothly if you don't have everything always up in your face. Your computer is set up with some similar ideas in mind.

With Windows, you've got the notion of "hidden files", files which by default aren't visible to you through Windows Explorer. On a Linux system, or other Unix-like box, there are "dot files"—those files which have a period as the first character in their filenames. Those files are hidden by default; if you really need to see them, you have to go out of your way to do so. On the Mac, similar behavior is available: dot files are hidden by default, but there are also file attributes that can be set to make your files invisible in Finder. If you've got the Developer Tools installed on your system and you're not afraid of Terminal, you can effect these types of changes yourself. For everybody else, there's Ghost.

With this tool, it's easy to hide or reveal files or folders. Declutter your windows by hiding some of the unnecessary stuff, or take a look at what Finder's hiding from you by un-hiding files. Remember, this isn't really a security thing—"security by obscurity" isn't a viable plan—but for general "let me stuff this in the closet to get it out of the way" tidying-up, it's not a bad deal.

Ghost is a free download, and should run on your recent Mac.

Download Ghost

Easy access to recent files with Piles for Windows

Monday, July 26th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Piles for Windows

I suppose there's some study out there that says that we're more likely to do again that which we just did than to do something else. If you just took a swig of coffee, there's probably a pretty good chance that your next move will to take another swallow. That's kind of the principal that Piles for Windows is based on.

This tool helps you keep track of the last files you worked on. Need to open that document again? There it is. Want to tweak that image a bit more? Grab it from the list. All you need to do is to drop a directory you want to watch onto the app and you're good to go. Or integrate it into Windows Explorer by right-clicking the directory and choosing it from the context menu. Either way, then just pin it to the taskbar and it'll be there just waiting for you.

Piles for Windows is a free download. As its name suggests, it's a Windows app. It runs under Windows 7, and you'll need version 3.5 of the .NET Framework as well.

Download Piles for Windows

Online tool converts PDF files into DOCs

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of PDF2Word Online

There are lots of ways to convert a Word DOC into a PDF file. There are printer drivers that let you "print" a PDF, there are online services that you can upload documents to, or even desktop apps that will do the deed. What is sorely lacking is a tool that will go the other direction: take a PDF and convert it back into a DOC.

So why would you want it as a DOC? The biggest reason, other than a deep-seated love of all things Microsoft, could be to edit the beast. While PDFs are swell to share with others, there's not much you can do to modify them once they're out there. That's where PDF2Word Online just might come in handy.

With this free service, you upload your PDF file, and after it grinds away on it for a minute or three, you can download your fully-editable, Microsoft-friendly document. When we tried it, we got back an RTF (Rich Text Format) file, sort of a generic version of a DOC. While there was a font or two that were a little out of whack, it correctly rebuilt the sizes of all the text on the page, as well as correctly rendering a fairly complicated table. It was deemed "close enough", and we were thrilled to not have to go back and rebuild the page from scratch.

PDF2Word Online is a free service. All you're going to need to take advantage of it is a web browser and a PDF file that you want to be able to edit.

Download PDF2Word Online

Zim is a desktop wiki

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Zim

If you've been online for more than a minute or two, you have no doubt heard of a "wiki". This set of interlinked pages forms the basis for Wikipedia, as well as oodles of other websites that are built to allow easy access to, as well as collaborative addition of, information. Well it turns out that wikis can make pretty good note-taking tools as well.

Zim is a "desktop wiki" that lets you harness the power of the wiki for local use. You can edit text and execute jumps from here to there, and even create new pages by just linking to nonexistent pages. This lets you add pages on the fly as you need them, rather than requiring that you stop your own creative process to go and create a page or pages to link to. By allowing you to focus on what you're doing, you don't run the risk of heading off on a tangent while forgetting what it was that you were trying to do. And of course, Zim supports standard types of wiki markup, so it's easy to add text formatting like bold and italic, as well as lists, checkboxes, images, and more.

Zim runs on top of Python, so the install may be a little complicated. You can grab the source and compile it yourself for Linux, or check out the unofficial Ubuntu package, or even a Windows installer.

Download Zim

Archive your Tweets with TwitterBackup

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of TwitterBackup

If you spend your life on Twitter, it might be nice to have a record of your "Tweets". Unfortunately there's no built-in way to do that. Sure, your old posts are always there in your Profile page, but as well all know, sometimes Twitter can have, ummm, issues. The only totally safe way to keep track of what you've Tweeted is to save it yourself.

TwitterBackup is an aptly named application that allows you to do just that. Fire it up, give it your Twitter login credentials, and it will grab a copy of what you've done out there. It saves things off in an XML file on your local drive, so you can access it with any text editor. While it's doing its thing, it performs an "incremental backup", so it only adds newer Tweets to what you've already got backed up.

You can grab TwitterBackup for free. It's a Java application, so you should be able to run it on any system that has the appropriate Java runtime installed on it.

Download TwitterBackup

Program smarter with Scriptly code editor

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Scriptly

There are a couple of different schools when it comes to coding web pages. On one side are the GUI tools that let you quickly assemble pages but give you no real control over what the behind-the-scenes code looks like. Those tend to be faster but don't necessarily allow you the ability to optimize your code or do anything tricky with it. At the other extreme, there's the purist who writes code only in Notepad or emacs. Lots of control there, but definitely no training wheels. There are great big integrated development environments (IDE) that help you with things like syntax coloring and code completion (when you start typing a tag or function name, it tries to guess where you're headed and suggests the word you may be looking for).

Scriptly falls somewhere in the middle. It's an text editor that does syntax highlighting for most of the languages you're likely to be interested in (HTML, PHP, CSS, and more), and includes most of the tags and functions you're likely to use, ready to just drag-and-drop into your code. It's also got tools to help you with creating image maps, lists, and other complicated code structures. Sophisticated search and replace means you only have to code stuff once and then re-use it instead of re-inventing the wheel constantly.

A free download, Scriptly is a Windows application. You can grab the full installer for use at home or in the office, or the compact version to throw on your USB drive.

Download Scriptly