Archive for October, 2010

A better calculator

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of SFR Calculator

Every flavor of Windows since before forever has included a calculator application. Sometimes it gives you enough functionality that you're in good shape. Often, though, you're left wanting. If you're sitting in front of all this computing power and still find that you need to use your ten-key, then there's something seriously lacking in your life. Time to look for an after-market calculator app.

SFR Calculator may be what you're looking for. Yes, it adds and subtracts just like the high-priced calculator, but it does more than just that. It features a virtual tape, that lets you look back at your calculations and see what numbers you actually punched in, to make sure you've got the right info in there. Add to that subtotals, and you can see how your calculations are progressing. You can add notes and annotations so that you'll remember not only that you added 4 + 3, but you'll also remember why you did. Print your work out, or even save it to a file, so you can print it out next week, or next year. It's got buttons you can customize, so if you do a particular complicated calculation over and over, you can do it all with just a single button push.

SFR Calculator is a free download. It's a Windows app and you should be able to run it under anything from Windows 2000 up through Windows 7.

Download SFR Calculator

Watch log files in real time on Windows

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Log Expert

For an all-out geekfest, nothing beats a Linux box (or any of the other Unix-y systems). You can take some serious control of your system and really see what's going on under the hood. Generally, Windows doesn't give you that level of access or control of the behind-the-scenes stuff. Fortunately, there are more and more tools that can take you into the realm of "no user serviceable parts inside," if you're brave enough—and careful enough—to take advantage of them.

Log Expert is a tool that will be familiar to anyone with experience with the Unix tail command. With this tool, you can watch the various log files that your system generates and see them updated in real time. It's handy for system logs, security logs, server logs, and any other log that you want to watch as things happen. Being a Windows app, it's got a GUI, making it much friendlier than its Unix counterpart. It also gives you the ability to filter what you're looking at, and displays your comma- and tab-delimited log files into nice tables, making it easier to figure out what you're really looking at.

You can download and use Log Expert for free on your Windows machine. You'll need to be running Win2k or later, and have version 2.0 of the .NET Framework.

Download Log Expert

Growl for Windows

Friday, October 29th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Growl for Windows

Keeping up with the Joneses. We all want the latest do-dad that the neighbors have; after all, who wants to be left behind? In the computer world, this is particularly true. New machines, new peripherals, new software—we want it all.

Mac users are probably familiar with Growl, the notifier app that gives you a heads-up when things happen on your system: a download is complete, a Skype call is coming in, that sort of thing. Well, now Windows users can take advantage of this same functionality with Growl for Windows.

You can configure this app for the type of notification you want—visual, audio, both—when a target event happens. The program that generates the event, whether a web browser, RSS feed aggregator, IM application, of something else, must be compatible with Growl for Windows for it all to work, but there are a fair number of popular tools that do just that, and they're adding new ones all the time.

Growl for Windows is a free download.

Download Growl for Windows

Count characters, words, lines with Text Tally

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Text Tally

The little things matter. Like when you're filling in a web form and the field you're typing into wants 40 characters and no more. Or when you're supposed to answer a question in 25 words or less. Or you need a blog post that's at least 300 words long. You can spend your day counting, or you can put your computer on the case.

Text Tally is a nice little application that can give you a hand here. If you've got a question about something you're typing up, just copy it to the clipboard, and Text Tally will give you the low-down on what you've got there. If you'd prefer, you can copy and paste text into its application window, or you can type right into it. No matter how your text gets in there, Text Tally will display the number of characters in your passage, as well as the number of words and the number of lines. If you're going to be counting a lot, you can just minimize the app to the System Tray to keep it out of your way, yet always at the ready.

Text Tally is a free Windows application.

Download Text Tally

Manipulate PDF documents with PDF Rider

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of PDF Rider

PDF files are handy to have around. Everybody can read them, since Adobe Reader and similar apps are available on just about every platform out there. Share your handiwork with others, whether it be a report, a proposal, or even your first novel. PDF files are pretty easy to create; Macs have the ability built in, and you can grab print-to-file tools that let other systems create them just as easily as printing a document.

Once you've got your PDF file, however, it's not so easy to change it. If you need to update information, move pages around, or even remove stuff from it, you've got your work cut out for you. It may be easiest to just re-create the document, although "easy" probably isn't the word that comes first to mind when you're looking at a 300 page volume.

PDF Rider can give you hand with this. This application is a well-behaved GUI built on top of the tried and true pdftk (PDF ToolKit) application, which is usually only available on the command line. While apps like that are powerful, it can be a challenge to get just the right combination of arguments on the command line to get the result you want. With PDF Rider, it's as easy as making a few choices from a menu and clicking a couple of buttons. Add or remove pages, re-arrange them, burst your multi-page PDF into smaller docs, as well as encrypting and decrypting your files.

You can download a copy of PDF Rider for free. It's a Windows application, and requires version 3.5 of the .NET Framework.

Download PDF Rider

Free online storage

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of MyDrive

Can you ever have enough storage space? People are making a small fortune out there designing and installing custom closet organizers. Self-storage facilities are almost as numerous as Starbucks. And what about the stuff on your computer? Can't stuff that in the closet, but there are other options you can take advantage of.

MyDrive offers two gigabytes of free storage space for your photos, reports, and other important goodies. Use it to share pictures of the kids with the in-laws, or collaborate on that big project with co-workers. Along with your "regular" account, you get a guest account that lets you grant different permissions—maybe read-only?—to the folks you're sharing information with. You can map your storage space to your local filesystem via WebDAV, or you can use their Java or Flash uploaders, or just a plain old web form.

All you need to use MyDrive is a valid email address and something you want to share with others. And mom always told you it was nice to share.

Download MyDrive

Designer SVGs for scrapbooking and cardmaking

Monday, October 25th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Cut Files

If you're into scrapbooking or card making, you can never have enough materials to work with. From stickers to fancy paper and beyond, you're always looking for that something special to add to your project.

Cut Files is a service that can give you a hand along the way. They've got dozens and dozens of designer-created SVG-formatted digital die cut files you can download and use. Choose from animal cut files, birthday cut files, holiday cut files, wedding cut files, and more. They're all designed to use with your Cricut machine and software like Sure Cuts A Lot or Make the Cut. And they're all just a quick, download away. Use them for your scrapbooking or general crafts projects, or incorporate them into school projects, and more–you're really only limited by your imagination.

You can download Cut Files digital die cut images for free.

Download Cut Files

Be on time for your appointment with My Alarm Clock

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of My Alarm Clock

We all need to be reminded from time to time. Whether it's your meeting with the boss, the dental appointment you'd really rather avoid, or just your cup of tea steeping, it's much better to remember than to forget. My Alarm Clock can give you a hand here.

With its simple interface, you can set My Alarm Clock to let you know when it's time to do whatever it is you need to be reminded about. And unlike the alarm clock sitting on your nightstand, you can set a date as well as a time for your alarm, giving you a lot more control over setting your reminders. My Alarm Clock also features a stopwatch, so there's no need to find a separate tool when you need to count up- instead of down.

My Alarm Clock is a free download. It runs under Windows.

Download My Alarm Clock

Get rid of unwanted apps with SlimComputer

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of SlimComputer

The good news: you just bit the bullet, spent a pile of your hard-earned money, and got a sparkly new computer. The bad news: it's got tons of junk software pre-loaded on it. If you really aren't ever going to use WordPerfect or last year's version of Quicken, is there a reason to have it taking up space on your system?

SlimComputer is an application that can help you take out the trash from your new system. Just by pushing a couple of buttons, you can disable services turned on by default that may put your system at risk, get rid of links you aren't going to use, and maybe most importantly, remove all that trialware and other junk that's just getting in the way. It uses community feedback to figure out what "unwanted" means, so the lists it works from are constantly updated. And if you have second thoughts about stuff you've removed, it has a Restore feature, to undo what you just did.

SlimComputer is a free tool. It runs on Windows system under XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

Download SlimComputer

Free online typing tutor

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of PowerTyping

Back in the day, you used to learn your keyboarding skills in Typing class. You used this thing called a typewriter and you learned how to type by touch, the proper format to use for correspondence, and all kinds of other nifty stuff. Nowadays, there's hardly a typewriter to be found anywhere, and not many folks mail a letter, but we live our lives typing—into computers. That means that those typing skills are still pretty important.

PowerTyping is a free online service that teaches you how to type, and helps you improve your speed and accuracy by drilling you on your typing skills. Whether you're new to the whole keyboard thing, or you want to progress beyond the "hunt and peck" approach, give this tool a try. They are set up to work with the regular QWERTY keyboard, as well as the alternative Dvorak key layout. They've got exercises and games to give you practice, and provide feedback on how you're doing. Now if only you could figure out how to touch type on your smart phone's keyboard.

You'll need a web browser with Flash installed to use PowerTyping.

Download PowerTyping