Archive for August, 2010

Windows port of vi editor

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of WinVi

The choice of a text editor can be a highly personal matter. On Windows, you've got Notepad; on Mac there's Text Edit. On Linux and other Unix-like systems, it's not so clear cut: most of those setups have two basic text editors, emacs and vi. To the uninitiated, each of these seems kludgy, but once you're up and running, there's a lot you can accomplish with a few simple keystrokes. If you're a *nix guy or gal working on Windows, or anybody looking for a different approach to text editing on that system, you might want to take a peek at WinVi.

While it features a GUI that might make it familiar to Windows users, complete with File, Edit, and Windows menu choices, underneath it's still good old vi. Insert mode lets you enter and edit text, while command mode lets you take care of business such as opening, saving, and closing files, jump around in your file, and more. It's the best of both worlds: a dessert topping and a floor wax. Or at least a pretty good text editor.

WinVi is a free download. It's a Windows app and runs under Windows 2000 and later. They've also got older versions, so if you're the last person on earth still using Windows 3.1, you're in luck too.

Download WinVi

Gmail Backup tool

Friday, August 20th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Gmail Backup

Sure, you do regular backups of your data, right? You know you'd be sunk if you lost all that stuff: financial information, customer database, reports, and more. But what about your email? Back in the day, you used a desktop email application. When you backed up your system, you were sure to grab your email at the same time. But now that you use an online system for email, that little piece has gone away. If your email service of choice is Gmail, you're in luck: you've got Gmail Backup.

Gmail Backup is a tool that lets you back up your Gmail account. If you use Gmail in your business, you really can't afford to lose your important mail. You'd like to assume that Google will always be there, and that your data will always be safe, but then again they thought the Titanic was unsinkable as well. With this app it's pretty easy to do an "incremental backup", where you grab all the email since your last backup, so you don't have to grab several years worth of messages each time you run it. You're backing up the "All Mail" folder, so everything you really care about, including all sent, received, and draft messages.

A free download, Gmail Backup runs under Linux and Windows. There's an unsupported command-line only Mac version as well, if you're feeling particularly adventurous.

Download Gmail Backup

Convert bitmaps to vector with WinTopo

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of WinTopo

Paper or plastic? Edward or Jacob? Raster or vector? While the high-tech world doesn't necessarily speak to the first two pairs, the choice between digital images can make a big difference. Especially if you've got the wrong one.

Paint programs, like Photoshop, basically record the color and position of each and every pixel in an image. While that's handy for photos and pix on websites, if you need to do some serious work with your images, it's not necessarily your best bet. Vector images, like you might find in Illustrator, are the ones that your electronic drafting application wants to work with. So if you have an image you want to scan—maybe a drawing you want to modify in AutoCAD—you're out of luck.

WinTopo takes your bitmap image—BMP, TIF, JPEG, GIF, PNG—and converts it into any of several vector formats. Now you can use your drawing program to make edits. And remember, one of the great things about vector images is that you can enlarge or reduce them with no loss of image quality.

You can grab the freeware version of WinTopo for, ummm, free and run it on your Windows system. They've also got a professional version if you're interested, but that's going to cost you.

Download WinTopo

Encrypt your USB pen drive

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of USB Safeguard

USB thumb drives are handy, to be sure. The fact that you can take a gigabyte—or 24 or more of them—of data, stick it in your pocket, and walk out the door is pretty amazing stuff. The flip side of that, of course, is that anybody else can do the same thing with your data. That's not so handy. So how do you safeguard your data while at the same time still affording yourself the convenience of the portability of that little stick of memory?

USB Safeguard is a tool that lets you encrypt the contents of your portable drive. Using 256-bit AES encryption, you won't need to worry about your data if you and your drive become separated. It features drag-and-drop encryption, so adding files to the drive is no problem. Going the other direction, you can shred files you want to get rid of, making it just about impossible for anybody else to get their hands on your info.

You can score a copy of USB Safeguard for free. It's a Windows app and will be right at home on your WinXP or later system.

Download USB Safeguard

Free project scheduling and management tool

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of GanttProject

Sometimes it seems like the planning that goes on for a project is more work than the actual project itself. Trying to keep track of all the tasks and sub-tasks, allocating necessary resources, and arranging the people to do the work can become its own project. Then I suppose you have to figure out how to manage that project, and on and on….

GanttProject is a free project scheduling and management tool. As its name suggests, it's easy to picture your project when it's displayed as a Gantt chart. Those horizontal bars make it easier to visualize dependencies and critical path as you try to figure out how you're ever going to get this thing done with the amount of time you have available. Once you've got a handle on everything, you can export your projects as PNG images, with reports to back them up.

GanttProject is a Java app, so it should run on just about any platform with an appropriate Java runtime installed on it. To make things super convenient, there are separate packages available for Linux, Mac (OS X), and Windows systems. Or if you just want to check it out, you can even try a Web-based version in your browser.

Download GanttProject

Stick your apps in the System Tray with Iconize

Monday, August 16th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Iconize

If you're running several apps on your Windows system, you know it's easy for things to get complicated and messy. Icons and windows scattered all over the place, taskbars and menus thrown here and there. And if you're lucky, you might even find the applications you want to work with. What a mess. So how are you going to clean things up?

Iconize can take any application and stick it in the System Tray. Just right-click on any app and choose to send it to the Tray. A quick double-click restores your program to its previous size, so you're always ready to go. No sense taking up a bunch of room for applications that are just "hanging out"; fire 'em up when you really need them.

Iconize is a free download. It's a Windows app, and should run just fine on anything from Win98 up through Windows 7.

Download Iconize

Convert PNGs to ICOs and back

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of ConvertICO

So there you sit, with the coolest PNG image of all time. If only you could turn it into an ICO-formatted icon. Or maybe you've got an icon you'd like to use as a regular image. What to do?

ConvertICO is a free service that has the answer for this vexing problem. Go to their site, end either enter the URL for an image living on the web, or browse and select the file on your computer and upload it. Press the magic button, and quicker than you can say something quickly, you'll have your converted file. Just download your freshly-converted image, and go on your way. It's quick, it's easy, and you don't even have to register, meaning you won't have to endure years of spam to pay for a simple file conversion.

All you need to use ConvertICO is a web browser and an image you want to convert.

Download ConvertICO

Online garden planner

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Plan-A-Garden

Stephen Covey tells us to "begin with the end in mind." After all, if you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? Even though planning something may not be as fun or interesting as doing that thing, it's really a good idea.

There are all kinds of tools out there to help you plan things. Plan your schedule; plan your finances; plan your wedding. How about your garden? The folks at Better Homes and Gardens have a tool you might be interested in. Oddly enough, it's aptly named "Plan-A-Garden".

With Plan-A-Garden, you can design and lay-out your garden. Choose from prefab layouts, or choose to start with a blank slate. You get to define the space, dragging borders to size it appropriately. Drag and drop from a huge list of objects to incorporate structures, like walkways and patios, as well as more plant-related features, like garden beds, annuals and perennials, trees, and more into your garden. Save your work, send it to a friend, or print it out.

Plan-A-Garden is a free online tool. You have to register to use it, but if you check- and uncheck all the appropriate boxes, you shouldn't be deluged with spam.

Download Plan-A-Garden

Online time tracking system

Friday, August 13th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of PHP Timeclock

If you've got employees, you need to keep track of how much time they put in. If you are an employee, you want to make sure the boss knows how hard you've been working. Luckily it's easy to take care of both of these with a timeclock. Back in the day, this meant one of those machines that you had to shove a card into and have it print a time on it. Now we've got all those newfangled computer-machines, and things are easier, and dare we say more convenient?

PHP Timeclock is an online time tracking system. Running on your webserver, you use a browser to access its data input and output functions. Clocking in and out at the beginning and end of your shift is easy. Management can pull data with no muss or fuss via its admin functionality: no more having to dig through and copy data from a stack of dirty timecards, and no worry about losing them either. It generates all manner of reports, so you can be on top of your staffing needs. And this app does one thing that even the best physical timeclock can't do: it can be in two (or more) places at once. One system will serve all your locations, since it lives on a server, rather than being a bunch of discrete mechanical clocks.

A free download, PHP Timeclock needs to be installed on a server with PHP, MySQL, and Apache. You should be able to access the front-end with most modern web browsers, including Firefox and IE ver 6 or later.

Download PHP Timeclock

Keep your apps organized with Hidden Menu

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Hidden Menu

So many programs, so little time. Sometimes it's easy to lose track of all the nifty applications you've got loaded on your system. You can always go dig through Program Files, but that may take several minutes—or hours—to find what you're looking for. Even the Start Menu is probably going to give you more choices than you can reasonably handle. If those two options let you keep track of the important- and the really-important stuff, what do you do to track your really really important applications? Maybe something like Hidden Menu.

This tool lets you compile a collection of your most important applications. Or you can drive it the other way around and make a menu of your most important documents—either way, it's easy to get up and running quickly here. Add just the items you're most interested in, and you won't have to dig through a bunch of your second-string players. And on top of that, the "hidden" is there in the name for a reason: when you're not using Hidden Menu, it's, how shall we say it, hidden. Set a screen area to activate it, maybe the lower right corner, and your menu stays out of sight until you move your mouse down there. Then it leaps to life to let you choose where you're going to go next.

Hidden Menu is a free download. It's a Windows application, and should run on anything from Win95 on up.

Download Hidden Menu