Archive for July, 2010

Smart clipboard extender

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of YC3

The sky is blue. The sun rises in the east. Clipboard extenders extend your clipboard. All true statements, and fairly obvious to boot. The first two are pretty much constants, the occasional gray-sky'd stormy day notwithstanding. Clipboard utilities, however, aren't all created equal.

The system clipboard is a great idea. We all appreciate the copy-and-paste capability that this adds to our workday. After all, if we had to manually retype the URL for some hundred character-long website address, we'd never get to that page. The clipboard can be enhanced with third-party add-ons that allow for multiple clipboards, or multiple items on the clipboard. YC3 does this one better.

It can hold literally hundreds of clippings. And it's smart enough to know about plain old text, rich text, URLs, and even images. Access your clippings via an Outlook-style toolbar; drag 'em around and reorganize, and even save clippings permanently. That means you can have templates that you use and reuse—maybe something as simple as a favorite signature, or something as complicated as a form letter you can now dash off in an instant. Get them in there by selecting and copying text or images, or you can even drag selections directly into YC3. That seems pretty handy.

YC3 is a free download. It runs on any Win32 system from lowly Windows 95 up through the latest release of Windows 7.

Download YC3

Record streaming audio and video

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Ask and Record Toolbar

Seems lately that you can't go through a day without somebody calling your attention to some clip on YouTube or another video sharing site. Watching it once is okay, but if you decide you want to look at it again, you're stuck with having to download (stream) it all over again. It might just be quicker to save it locally and watch that copy instead.

Ask and Record Toolbar can help you with that. Hit the magic button and tell it to save your video, and it will keep a copy on your local drive. Now you can replay it as often as you like, including while you're offline. And while you're in the neighborhood, what about audio? Well, as luck would have it, you can also record streaming audio with this tool. Same drill: just listen and record, then play it back at your leisure. There's also a built-in tool to convert your new video and audio files into different formats. And there's built-in search engine goodies too—the "Ask" in the name is the folks at Ask.com, the other other search engine.

The Ask and Record Toolbar is a Windows application. It runs on systems under Windows 2000 and later. And remember, kids, play nice and don't use this to do bad things with copyrighted content. But you knew that, right?

Download Ask and Record Toolbar

Zimbra Desktop challenges Outlook

Friday, July 9th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Zimbra Desktop

We've seen numbers that show that no matter how many web pages there out there, and no matter how much social networking stuff is available, the most-used facility on the Internet is plain old email. Even if you factor out all the spam and junk flying around, that's a lot of email.

Zimbra Desktop is a free email client with a lot of added goodies. It does all the email stuff you'd expect, allowing you read and write messages, and work with both POP and IMAP servers. It's also smart enough to work with web-based mail services like Gmail, Yahoo, and the lot. But along with email, it's also got contact management, calendaring, and more. Think of it as being like Outlook but without Outlook's hefty price tag. And since there are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, you're going to have to work pretty hard to find a machine you can't use it on.

You can download Zimbra Desktop for free. In addition, they've got big deal enterprise-size network email solutions (not free), although you don't need them to run the free app.

Download Zimbra Desktop

Assistive Software

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of FX Software

While we can all take advantage of the speed and sheer processing power of our computers, there's a whole bunch of folks out there for whom computers are even more important. Some accessibility tools can help people to work more easily with computers, while others make it possible to do things they might not be able to do without them (think speech synthesis and screen readers). Rather than choosing a specific tool, today we're going to look at a site with several useful apps.

FX Software has a browser full of interesting tools that can help make computing easier. Several of them make it easier for people with vision issues to see what's going on, with a variety of magnifiers, enlarged mouse pointers, and even colored overlays to help make text easier to read. They've also got a text-to-speech app that can read text you've copied to the clipboard. A keystroke counter can help you keep track of how much work you're doing, perhaps with an eye to possible repetitive stress issues that may arise. There's also a toolbar you can add to Word 2007 that makes it easier to highlight text, speak text, and even to identify passages that are overly long.

These tools are all Windows applications.

Download FX Software

Understand your web pages better with Site Inspector

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Site Inspector

If you're serious about web design, then you've got to make sure that your sites and their pages behave as expected under various browsers and situations. One way to deal with this is to make sure you've got several different ones running all at the same time; a more civilized approach might use a tool like Site Inspector.

Site Inspector can let you see what your site would look like under both Microsoft's IE as well as Mozilla's Gecko/Firefox family of browsers. That in itself is probably worth the price of admission. But wait—there's more! You can also list all the images, forms, links, and other goodies on a given page. You can highlight different page elements to better understand why your page is so awesome (or why it is so broken). An onscreen grid can help you fine-tune your page layout.

You can download Site Inspector for free. It's a Windows app, so you'll need to be running at least Windows 98 and have a copy of IE 6 or better. Adding Firefox lets you do the whole two-browser thing as well.

Download Site Inspector

RSS tool sits in Mac Menu Bar

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of RSS Menu

In this day of information overload, subscribing to RSS feeds is a way to stay current on what's what without being totally buried in information. Getting these little snippets of info lets us decide which stories to dig more deeply into.

RSS Menu is an app that sits in your Mac's menu bar (hence the name) and helps keep an eye on your favorite RSS and Atom feeds. It runs in the background, so it stays out of your way, yet is always available. And since it's just a menu—there is no application window to look at—it's not going to take up your valuable screen real estate. It can let you know when new stuff arrives, either visually or by speaking to you. Sort and rearrange your feeds so that you can find what you're looking for. And with integration with iTunes and Safari, this could easily become the center of your connection with the world.

A Mac application, RSS Menu runs under OS X (10.4).

Download RSS Menu

Take the pain out of changing network settings

Monday, July 5th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Free IP Switcher

If you've got a laptop and actually bring it with you, you know about the challenges of hooking up to different networks at different times. Tweaking your network settings in Windows is not the most user-friendly thing you're going to do today, since there are several different tweaks you must apply, as well as having to reboot your machine to make those changes all go into effect. While it may be a necessary pain in the neck, it is a pain nevertheless.

Free IP Switcher might make your day a little better. Its tabbed interface lets you enter and save configuration information for home, office, school, or any other location you frequent. Choose a fixed IP or let an address be assigned to you via the magic of DHCP. Pick a gateway and DNS settings for each location. You can even set up different computer names and membership in different groups for each location. Configure it to auto-start with Windows and now you don't have to cringe when it's time to plug in to a different network.

You can download Free IP Switcher for, um, free. It runs under Windows (Win2k and later).

Download Free IP Switcher

Keep important information always on top

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of OnTopReplica

Does your workspace get crowded? If you're like some of us, you've got too many applications open all at once, and every one of them is vitally important —or at least they all seemed that important when we opened them. There is some stuff you really do want to keep an eye on, however. Like that file you've got downloading in the background. It would be awfully handy to keep working on your main tasks while watching that stuff as well.

One way to handle this is with OnTopReplica. Where some tools let you put an app or a window "always on top", this guy goes one better—you can literally choose a portion of a window to put on top. Once this tool's up and running, all you need to do is to drag your mouse to define a region, and then set that region as "always on top". Now you can keep an eye on that download, watch that video, or otherwise be more on top of what's happening on your system.

OnTopReplica is a Windows application. You'll need to be running Vista (Home Premium) or better, with "Aero" activated, as well as version 2.0 of the .NET Framework installed.

Download OnTopReplica

Keep your files in sync with Toucan

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Toucan

Even though it may be most efficient to have one copy of everything, sometimes it's easier to manage things if you have strategically positioned duplicates. Suppose you're at the office working on a big project. when you go home, it might be handy to be able to continue working on it. Your work network may be set up in such a way that you can't tunnel in to get back to your desktop machine. Here's a situation where it may be best just to load all your files onto your laptop and carry them home with you. But when you come back the next morning, now you've got a different version on your laptop (i.e. your edits from last night) than the version on your desktop machine. You need to synchronize those two versions so that they're identical.

Toucan is a tool that lets you sync up different versions of your files. This may as simple as copying one set of files to a new location (like when you loaded your laptop), or as complicated as merging two different versions together, like when you work on your desktop version before syncing up with the at-home version, so now you've got two different versions of your work, neither one of which is identical to what you started with. This tool also allows you to make straight-up backups of your work (stored to industry standard Zip files), as well as high powered encryption for your sensitive files.

You can grab Toucan for free. It's a Windows app and should run on systems with Windows 2000 and later.

Download Toucan

Writeboard is an online whiteboard

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Writeboard

One of the first things they teach you in Meetings 101 (after the part about having food available) is to write things down. For everybody in the group to get the most out of what you've written, it's best to put it out there for everybody to see. Generally this means using a big flip chart on an easel, a chalkboard, or the go-to solution: the whiteboard. It's easy to add, tweak, and highlight everyone's contributions, and it's easy for everybody to be on the same page when everybody's on the same page.

Writeboard is a way you can use a whiteboard when you're not all in the same room. Along with plain old text, there are options for some formatting— bold and italics, numbered- and bulleted lists, headers, and even hyperlinks—to help make your point. Others can edit your page or add comments, so everybody's going to be heard. As you make changes, earlier versions are saved, so you can go back and walk through the process when you try to figure out how we got from the beginning to here. Writeboards are password protected, although you probably shouldn't put your super secret formula on there, since there is really no guarantee that your information is going to remain private.

Writeboard is a free online service. All you need to use it is a modern web browser and an email address.

Download Writeboard