Archive for September, 2010

Free onscreen ruler

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Ruler

When you sit down at your real desk and work on your real desktop, things are pretty easy. Use a pencil to jot a note. Use a crayon to color a pretty picture. Grab a ruler to measure from here to there. Once you fire up your computer, some of that ease goes out the window. Now you need a word processor to write that note. You've got to use some kind of paint program to make your picture. And a ruler? Hmmm…

Ruler is an onscreen ruler that lets you measure distances on your screen. It's handy for cropping and resizing images, as well as deciding how you will lay things out on your web page. It runs both vertically and horizontally, so you can work in both dimensions. You can drag it to resize, so you'll always have the right sized tool to work with. Add to that the fact that it stays on top, and that you can run multiple instances of it, and it's almost as good as a real ruler.

You can grab your own copy of Ruler for free and run it on your Windows machine.

Download Ruler

VistaSwitcher makes it easy to switch tasks

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of VistaSwitcher

If you've ever run two applications at the same time, then you know all about [Alt]+[Tab], the standard Windows let's-do-something-else command. Sure, it gets you from here to there, but there's nothing special about it. VistaSwitcher is an elegant alternative.

With this tool, it's still easy to jump from task to task. Now, though, you get a cool dialog that not only lets you pick which app you want to go to next, it also gives you a full list of all the apps running on your system, as well as a preview of the target apps. Use your mouse wheel to scroll through the list and jump directly to where you want to go. Right clicking on apps in the list lets you tweak window sizes and shapes. It's even smart enough to work with multiple displays.

You can grab a copy of VistaSwitcher for free. It's a Windows app and runs on systems under Vista or Windows 7.

Download VistaSwitcher

Keep track of your dreams with DreamDiary

Friday, September 17th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of DreamDiary

Your poor brain never catches a break. You run, run, run all day, making decisions, processing information, trying to keep things all together. And then at night, when your body gets a chance to take a well-earned rest, your grey matter continues to work, dreaming the night away. Whether your dreams are merely the result of your having eaten that pepperoni pizza too close to bedtime, or your psyche's desire to figure stuff out, some folks find it helpful to keep track of what was dreamed. It's interesting that what is experienced so vividly at the time can be hard to recall by morning. Keeping a dream journal, where you record what you dreamt immediately upon awakening, is one way to keep track of what's going on. It's easy to put a pad and paper right next to the bed, but hey, we've come beyond that, right?

DreamDiary is an application designed to help you record your dreams. Use it to record your dreams, as well as thoughts and ideas you have throughout the day. Use it for keeping journal-type entries, either for personal stuff, or even business. You can organize your musings hierarchically, and it's got a built in calendar as well. The search function helps you find what you've written, and since it supports passwords and encryption, you don't need to worry about anybody else finding out what you've written.

You can download a copy of DreamDiary for free. It's a Mac application, and since it's a Universal Binary, you can use it on systems running OS X 10.3 (Panther) or later.

Download DreamDiary

Free CAD tool helps you design circuit boards

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of EAGLE

Some tools are designed for general use. A car will take you to work, or to the store, or over the river and through the woods to visit Grandma. A word processor can draft a letter, write a report, or any of a zillion other uses. Other tools are designed for a specific purpose—not too many things you can do with a fire extinguisher other than the obvious. Some software applications are designed for specific purposes as well.

EAGLE (Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor) is a CAD (computer aided design) program. Like the drafting table and T-square of yesteryear, these types of apps help you in putting together mechanical drawings. While that in itself may seem fairly specialized, EAGLE is even more tightly focused than that: it's designed specifically to draw electrical and electronic schematics and design circuit boards. Instead of having to break out a pad of graph paper, shape templates, and a well-sharpened pencil, you can put your circuits together on your computer. It's a lot easier to make revisions when there's not danger of rubbing a hole through your paper with an eraser. EAGLE combines the ability to lay out physical components as well as show how they fit together logically and electrically using just the one tool. It's got built-in libraries of components so you don't have to waste your time drawing transistors and all, and can focus your attention on the "big picture" instead.

EAGLE is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows systems. You can use the reduced-functionalilty free version if you don't plan to use it for profit. Otherwise, they want you to license it.

Download EAGLE

Code PHP pages easier with Winsyntax

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Winsyntax

If you're writing PHP code for a website or some other purpose, you need a text editor. It's important that you avoid any of the formatting stuff that you might get using a tool like Word. The only problem is that when you look at big chunks of code in Notepad, it can all sort of seem to run together, making debugging more of a chore than it needs to be. That's where a dedicated code editor might come in handy.

Winsyntax is a tool to look at here. It features syntax highlighting, which makes it a lot easier to see what you're working on. With functions in one color, comments in another, and so forth, your code makes more sense. In addition, it's got context-sensitive help for PHP keywords, meaning you won't have to have a stack of books open on your desktop as well when you're trying to figure out how many arguments you need for that function you just used.

You can use Winsyntax on Windows systems. It should be right at home on any Win32 system from Windows 95 on up. And the price is right, too: it's free.

Download Winsyntax

File uploads are easy with Dockdrop

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Dockdrop

The ability to move files around is important. It can also be a pain in the neck. If you're working on a website, or updating your blog, or even putting your vacation pictures up on Flickr, you know that it's not always the easiest thing to do. Sometimes you have to use complicated web forms; other times you have to fire up a separate FTP program. Everything else you do with files on your system is pretty easy, why shouldn't this kind of stuff be easy as well?

Dockdrop tries to answer this question. Once you've installed this tool, you can literally drag and drop files to upload them. As the name implies, you get an icon sitting in your dock where you can just drop your files. Up pops a dialog that lets you decide where and how you're going to send your files; click a button, and they're flying of to their destination. No more complications. It even gives you a transparent progress bar so you can monitor your upload while you get back to business.

A Mac application, Dockdrop runs under OS X 10.4 and later.

Download Dockdrop

Flyer Templates

Monday, September 13th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Printable Flyer Templates

If you've got information to share, you could just open your window and shout out into the street. While you might get the attention of passing pedestrians, they may be more inclined to pass you by than listen to what you have to say. And of course, nobody else is going to hear your story. That's why they invented handbills, leaflets, and flyers.

Whether you're renting a room out, looking for a babysitting gig, or promoting your business, it's nice to put a piece of paper into people's hands. Whether you're handing out flyers with your business name, or tacking a For Sale sign with those little tear-off tabs with your phone number on a utility pole, people are going to remember better who you are and what you have to offer when they've got something in their hands.

Printable Flyer Templates has dozens of free templates you can use for selling your stuff, advertising your services, or just generally letting folks know that you're in business. Advertise your garage sale, find your lost dog, publicize your organization's car wash, and more. And best of all, they're free—just download a template in Microsoft Word DOC format, make your edits, and then print your customized flyer. They're compatible with any system that supports Word, or other apps that can work with DOCs. Some of the flyers are also available as PDFs.

Download Printable Flyer Templates

DeleteOnClick really deletes files

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of DeleteOnClick

Standard behavior for Windows systems when you delete a file is to put it in the Recycle Bin. You haven't really deleted the file; rather, you've just basically stuck it in a drawer and forgotten about it. If you decide later that you really didn't want to delete it, it's simple to go in and bring it back. Sometimes, though, when you throw something in the trash, you know you don't want it back. There are probably times when you want to make sure that nobody else can bring stuff back as well. That's where DeleteOnClick comes in.

With DeleteOnClick, when you delete a file, it is truly deleted. Not only doesn't it just stick it away in the Trash, it actually kills the underlying file in such a way that neither you nor anybody else is going to get it back. That being said, you really want to be sure that you want to get rid of it.

You can grab a copy of DeleteOnClick for free (look down around the middle of the page for the link). It's a Windows application.

Download DeleteOnClick

Mouse Jiggler keeps your screensaver from starting up

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Mouse Jiggler

You know you've seen this: you've got your machine working on something that's going to take a while, and you're not entering anything. Maybe it's a big download, or maybe you're compiling the Next Great App. Things are chugging along, when all of a sudden the screensaver kicks in. You weren't really interacting with your system, but you were keeping an eye on it. Now you've got to hit a key on the keyboard and hope you don't break something—the Control key maybe—or jiggle the mouse a tad to bring the display back.

Mouse Jiggler is a solution to this problem. As you might guess from the name, this app "jiggles" your mouse from time to time, providing just enough activity to keep your screensaver from starting up or your display from shutting down. There's no need to go in and mess with your system settings for keeping an eye on a simple software install.

You can grab a copy of Mouse Jiggler for free. It's a Windows app, and all you'll need beyond that is version 2.0 of the .NET Framework on your machine.

Download Mouse Jiggler

Hot Potatoes lets you built web-based tests

Friday, September 10th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Hot Potatoes

Back in the day, you had to have a pencil and paper to take a test. Where would we be without the dreaded Blue Book? Then came the Scantron card—just color in the little bubbles. We've come far beyond that. Now you can take tests on the Web. And if you use Hot Potatoes, it's not so hard to create those tests either.

Hot Potatoes is a suite of apps that let you build several different types of tests and quizzes suitable for deployment to the Web, or anywhere else you can reach with a browser. Choose from multiple choice, short-answer, and other formats. The quizzes are self scoring, so users get immediate feedback about their answers. They've got links to a bunch of sites that incorporate their tests to give you an idea of what's possible.

Hot Potatoes is a free download. It comes with a Windows installer, or you can grab the Java version which you can install on Linux, Mac, or any other system with a Java runtime.

Download Hot Potatoes