Archive for September, 2010

Turn icons into images

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of IconGrabber

Nice icon. I wish I had that as a real image. Probably not something you blurt out every day, but from time to time it might be nice to grab that little picture and use it for something else. IconGrabber can help you do just that.

There's nothing fancy about this tool—in fact, it doesn't even really have a GUI. Fire it up, and is just gives you a Finder window to use to browse to the file whose icon you want to grab. Pick your file, and then save the icon wherever you want, even choosing a size and format you want, including all web-supported formats, as well as TIFF and BMP. Or if you prefer, just drag your file onto this app's icon and go from there.

IconGrabber is a free download. It's a Mac application, and should run on systems with OS X 10.3 and later.

Download IconGrabber

Tiny Hex Editor

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Tiny Hex Editor

A hex editor isn't the type of tool you necessarily use every day, but when you need it, you really need it. The ability to get in and dig around in a binary file can sometimes be a real eye opener. Maybe you need to patch some little glitch in there, or perhaps you're looking for some obscure error message text. Either way, it's the only game in town.

Tiny Text Editor is one such tool. This isn't some ugly app that looks like it would be better suited to a command prompt; rather, it uses colors, inverse video, and bold characters to help you see what's going on. The status bar at the bottom of the window helps you keep track of where you are in the file at all times. Its search function lets you look for hex values, as well as ASCII and Unicode characters.

You can grab Tiny Text Editor for free. It's a Windows app and should be right at home of systems running Windows 98 or later.

Download Tiny Hex Editor

Convert DOC and DOCX files to TXT

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Doc To Txt Converter

Microsoft Word's DOC files have all kinds of bells and whistles. Along with the text they contain, there's a world of formatting that comes along for the ride. Whether it's fancy fonts, table formatting, or other tricky stuff, you can really dress things up here. Which is all good, unless you don't want it. Maybe the words themselves are what you're really after, and the formatting is just getting in the way. This can be especially true where you're adapting text to use somewhere else, particularly where you've written programming- or web page code in there. Your page will never load with all that extra stuff in there. What you need is plain old text and nothing else.

Doc To Txt Converter is a tool that can give you a hand with stripping all the fancy stuff out of your document. Feed it one or more Word files, in either DOC or the new DOCX format, and it goes to work extracting your text while it leaves all the window dressing behind. Now that you've got just the words, you can get on with doing what you need to with that text.

You can use Doc To Txt Converter on your Mac. It runs under OS X 10.4 and later.

Download Doc To Txt Converter

Organize Your Novel

Monday, September 27th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Storybook

Writers come in all sizes, shapes, and abilities. If you're into "terse", then Twitter or your cell phone's SMS text message functionality may be all the tools you need. If you're aiming a little higher, you probably want a bit more horsepower to get the job done. At the opposite extreme is the writer of novels. These tomes can range from dozens to literally thousands of pages, with casts of characters that can go on and on. Yes, you can go old-school and write this stuff all by hand—Tolstoy did not have a word processor to write War and Peace—but your life might be a lot easier with a more appropriate tool.

Storybook is a free tool for organizing and writing. You can keep track of all your characters, locations, scenes, and story lines, letting you get on with telling your story instead of getting bogged down in the administrivia that surrounds it. Sort all the pieces by chapter or date. Drag scenes around to better organize your story. And since it stores its data in a built-in database, stuff you enter is updated instantly; no worries about forgetting to save your work when your computer decides it's time to crash.

Storybook is available for Windows (XP, Vista, 7), as well as Linux. Technically this application is "donationware," so we're sure the authors wouldn't be heartbroken if you decided to send 'em a few bucks.

Download Storybook

See how you spent your day with True Time Tracker

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of True Time Tracker

How much time do you waste during the day? Maybe it would be better to rephrase that: how much time do you spend working productively each day? Whether you're billing clients hourly or just want to get a better handle on the question "where did all the time go?', there must be a tool out there to give you a hand. Well, as luck would have it, there is such a tool, and it's called True Time Tracker.

All you need to do is install this tool on your Windows system, and it will keep track of which applications you've run, which websites you visit, and all the other stuff you do during the course of the day. At the end of your work period, it'll spit out reports and let you know just how you spend your time. Once you're armed with these figures, it's easy to see how much time you spent productively working on the Johnson account, and how much of your life you frittered away on Twitter. Hopefully the numbers show just how dedicated you are.

True Time Tracker is a Windows application.

Download True Time Tracker

Blogging platform with no database required

Friday, September 24th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of FlatPress

You've got a blog, I've got a blog—heck, your cat's probably got a blog. For the ultimate in ease and simplicity, all you need to do is grab a spot on one of the free hosted services and start writing. Of course, the ease of starting up there is offset by the lack of control you have over the look and feel, to say nothing of the functionality of that canned blog. You can always to to the other extreme and install WordPress on your own server. With that, you get flexibility, but you also have to do some of the heavy lifting, especially when it comes to getting all the technical pieces to work and play well together.

FlatPress splits the difference between these two extremes. You host it on your own server, or with your ISP, or whatever your arrangement is. What you don't need to worry about, however, is access to MySQL or some other high-powered database back-end. That's because FlatPress doesn't use a database; it stores all its data in "flat files"—plain old text files that don't require a database engine to use them. Presumably if you're making a zillion posts a day, at some point you're going to take a performance hit for this, but if you're blogging a normal human amount—or a normal kitty amount—you're probably going to be okay.

Since it's an open-source project, you can grab a copy of FlatPress for free. The machine you install it on will need to be running a web server (Apache is great) and have PHP installed as well.

Download FlatPress

Free web proxy helps guard your privacy

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of HideMyAss!

No matter where you go or what you do on the Internet, you're leaving your footprints behind. When you visit a website, that site's server is logging your visit. And for that matter, your browser is keeping track of it as well, writing an entry to your browsing history. Yeah, if you're some creepy cyber-stalker you don't want that, but there could be other reasons as well, like maybe you're checking out the competition before applying for a job there.

HideMyAss! is not a site that specializes in stealth donkeys; rather, they offer various services that let you leave fewer tracks behind as you tool around the 'Net. They've got a web proxy that you can use to visit sites without revealing your actual IP address and any other identifying information. Along with that, they have a regularly updated list of public proxy servers that let you connect to other types of services (Email, etc.) while cloaking your info. They've got an anonymous email service, so you can set up one-time-only addresses for sites that require email info to create an account. They've even got a link anonymizer that you can use for links you put on sites you control that masks the who and what of those links, and an anonymous file upload and share area as well.

It won't cost you anything to use HideMyAss!, and you don't even have to register if you don't want. It doesn't rely on any fancy technologies, so you should be able to use just about any browser on just about any system to take advantage of this free service.

Download HideMyAss!

Tweak PDFs to fit your handheld device

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Papercrop

Smart phones and iPods and their kind are pretty handy. Pick it up, bring it along, and there you go. Until you have to read a document that doesn't fit on the screen. Now you get to spend all you time scrolling around the screen, or trying to figure out just what got cut off. It would be nice if you could reformat your documents to fit that smaller form factor display.

Papercrop is a tool that can give you a hand with that chore. Fire it up, feed it your PDF, and let it convert it into single-column format with dimensions you specify. If PDF isn't to your liking, you can convert your document into one of several image formats. You've also got options to fiddle with sharpness, contrast, and color depth to get the most out of your document. Now everything fits on the screen all at once and you can spend your time and effort reading and understanding, instead of cursing that teeny tiny screen.

Papercrop is a free Windows application. And happy reading.

Download Papercrop

Build your own color palettes with Colorate

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Colorate

Some folks have a talent (or a gift) for being able to pick out colors that go well together. You can see how well dressed they are, and be dazzled by their fine looking websites. Then there are those (your author included) who have no clue. But whether you're an expert or a disaster, it's always good to have help. And that's exactly what Colorate provides.

With this free tool, it's easy to put together palettes of colors that make sense and work well together. If you're looking for a new set of colors, it will generate one for you automatically. If you have an image or some other sample you'd like to match, give it to the tool and it will generate a palette based on your input. For most purposes, that's probably going to be the best you can do, but if you want to play with it more from there, you can further tweak the suggestions to get even better colors to work with. Once you find a set you like, you can save them to re-use in the future.

Colorate is a free download. It's a Mac application and will run under OS X 10.4 and later. It's a Universal Binary, so it's equally at home on PowerPC and Intel-powered Macs.

Download Colorate

Free Timetabling Software

Monday, September 20th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of FET

Scheduling anything can be a hassle. Whether it's making sure the kids get to soccer or that you get to all your meetings, it can be a real challenge to make sure that everything's covered and that you need to get where you need to go. Can you imagine how complicated it would be to set up the schedule for a school?

FET is a tool that lets administrators set up the schedule for a school. It lets you take into consideration the number and length of class periods, teacher availability (schedule conflicts, min- and max-hours worked in a day, extracurricular time requirements, etc.), classroom and common space availability, and more. You can weight various requirements, so that the tool can break ties when you've got conflicting requirements. And you can import and export data as text files (XML, CSV) so that you're not tied to the program's interface and can use your data with other applications if necessary.

You can download FET for free. There's a Windows installer that you can use, or you can grab a tarball and compile it yourself and install on Linux or Mac systems.

Download FET