Archive for October, 2010

Create HTML5 animations for websites

Monday, October 11th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Cooties

Animations can add a whole new level of interest to web sites. In the past, adding an animation has generally meant sticking a Flash movie on the site, requiring that the visitor have the Flash player installed on their system. Along with adding an extra layer of complexity and complication to things, it also means that the public and open-sourced nature of the web and the Internet is thwarted by a proprietary technology. It's for reasons like this that the iPad doesn't even support Flash. So how do you get Flash-less animation? Enter the world of HTML5. This new standard supports animation natively. Presumably, however, it's not going to be the easiest thing in the world to sit down with your text editor and bang out a full-length animation—you're probably going to want some help.

Cooties is a tool that helps you build HTML5 animations. It's a web-based system, so it runs entirely within your browser. That means that you don't need to worry about downloading and installing the tool onto a specific platform. Draw shapes, insert text, add images, and you're off to the races. Be the first on your block to add a new HTML5 animation in your website.

Cooties is a free web application. All you need to use it is a web browser, and a desire to be ahead of the curve.

Download Cooties

Electronic flash cards

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Anki

While sometimes change is good, other times it makes sense to rely on old, reliable processes. Like memorizing stuff. When you come right down to it, there's nothing like drilling over and over again to learn those multiplication tables, vocabulary words, or any of zillions of other facts. More times than not, that has meant using flash cards. The same is still true today, although flash cards have been updated.

Anki is a tool that lets you use your computer as a big flash card—or several of them. Enter the questions and the answers, and then let your computer drill you on your facts. It supports text, audio, images, and even video, so you can study stuff you never could on plain old index cards. And along with your mastering the content, the app keeps track of how often you're quizzed on a particular card—and how well you've answered—so that it can tailor your studying to emphasize the things you need more work on.

Anki is available on just about any platform you'd care to name, including Linux, BSD, Mac, Windows, and even as an iPhone app. Time to get smart.

Download Anki

Where's my disk space?

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of TreeSize Free

How much free space is there on your hard drive? There are all kinds of tools to help you answer that question, some better suited than others. Lots of them show blobs of colors to let you see relative sizes of this file or that directory compared with others. While that's good for comparisons, it doesn't always tell you just how much space is involved—how may bytes or megabytes or gigabytes of data we're talking about.

TreeSize Free helps you get a handle on your files. Choose a specific directory, or examine a whole drive; you access this tool through the context (right click) menu in Windows Explorer, which means it's always available to you when you need it. Values for file- and directory size are displayed in the window; in addition, colored bars in the background give you a feel for relative sizes of items in the list. Want to make a record of what you see? Hit the Print button and you'll get a hard copy of your disk information.

TreeSize Free is a Windows application. The current release runs under Windows 2000 and later; you can also still grab an earlier version designed for Win9x and WinME.

Download TreeSize Free

Free text-to-speech tool

Friday, October 8th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Panopreter Basic

Why might you want to have your computer read documents to you? Read, as in it speaks the words to you while you listen. Maybe you're busy and this is your way to multitask—listen to that new report while you're working on something else. Maybe you wrote a speech and wonder just what it might sound like. Or perhaps vision issues keep you from being able to make sense of things on your monitor. These or other potential reasons would seem to be plenty.

In the World of Mac, being able to listen to spoken text goes way back. Heck, you can even have system messages spoken to you. But on Windows machines, it's never been that easy to listen to what you're reading. That's why they built Panopreter Basic.

With Panopreter Basic, it's easy to convert text—almost any text—into WAV or MP3 audio files, that you can then listen to. It works with text files, Word DOCs, web pages, and more. Convert your text to sound and listen to it, burn it to a CD, turn it into a podcast—go nuts! It's even got an "immediate mode" that takes text you type into a window and converts it instantly to sound.

Panopreter Basic is a free download. It's a Windows app, and is compatible with systems running Microsoft SAPI 5 or above.

Download Panopreter Basic

Free File Searching Utility

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Agent Ransack

How do you find stuff on your computer? Running a directory listing may help, if you know where to start. Using your operating system's Find command helps broaden your search. But what if instead of names of files and documents, you're looking for content? Not so easy now.

Agent Ransack is a tool that helps you search for specific content on your system. You can use plain old "find this word" types of searches, but it does much more. You can search using Perl-compatible regular expressions as well. That means you're much more likely to find what you're looking for, and less likely to be buried under what you're not looking for. Add Boolean search terms (AND, OR, NOT) and you'll further narrow your search. Along with regular text documents, this tool's smart enough to know how to look inside Microsoft Office and OpenOffice files, so you're really covering the waterfront.

Agent Ransack is a Windows application. It's available as a free download for both personal and commercial use.

Download Agent Ransack

A minimalist to-do manager

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Simple Todo

It's pretty much a given: if you're alive, then you're busy. Projects at work, stuff at home; report's due by the end of the week, kids have to get to soccer this afternoon. While you may need some help keeping track of it all, the last thing you need is some complicated tool that takes more time and effort to use than to just remember to do this stuff yourself. You need a simple to-do tool.

Simple Todo is a clean, easy-to-use reminder system for your hectic life. It's easy to add or remove reminders, prioritize them, and tick them off as you complete them. Color coding makes it easy to spot high priority tasks. It's a simple standalone executable, so no extra DLLs or Registry entries to mess up your system; ideal to load onto a USB thumb drive.

You can grab Simple Todo for free and run it on your Windows system.

Download Simple Todo

Trimmit cuts Mac files down to size

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Trimmit

"One size fits all" is a nice promise. Unfortunately, what that generally means is that it's a poor fit for everyone. Yes, it may be a floor wax and a dessert topping, but it's not very good at either.

Mac files, especially executable programs, often carry a lot of extra baggage with them along with the actual executable code. Universal Binaries, for example, include the code necessary to run on that fancy new Intel box you've got, as well as your reliable old PowerPC. But any given machine can only use one of those chunks of code—the rest is a waste. Lots of apps include messages, instructions, and what-have-you in multiple languages. Great if you're trying to bring everybody on board, but if you can't read Mandarin, you're just using up space on your machine.

Trimmit is a tool that helps get rid of the extra "stuff" in your Mac files. Along with unwanted Universal Binary pieces and multiple language info, it clears out resource forks, compresses TIFFs, and more. Just drag your file onto its window, press the button, and it goes to town trimming your file. You can save a backup of your original, so if something goes horribly wrong, all is not lost. And when it's all done, it lets you know what it's done for you. They warn that this tool is designed to work with native Cocoa apps, and that it may break other applications.

You can grab a copy of Trimmit for free. It's a Mac program and runs under OS X 10.4 or later.

Download Trimmit

Easy file printing in Windows

Monday, October 4th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of PrintFile

Printing is a pretty basic function of your computer and the programs that live on it. If you're writing a letter to Santa or putting together a report, you probably want it to hit a piece of paper at some point.

PrintFile is a tool that can help with printing out your files. While probably every app that creates a file has basic printing functionality built into it, this app adds to that basic capability. With text files, for example, you can print out multiple pages on each sheet of paper—put four pages worth of information on a single sheet of paper. You can print directly from the system clipboard as well—no need to copy text to the clipboard, fire-up a text editor or word processor, paste into that document, and print. Point it at a specific directory, and whenever a file is dropped into that folder, it automatically prints it. If you've got a conversion program like Ghostscript on your system, you can even use it to print Postscript files on non-Postscript printers.

You can grab PrintFile for free. It's a Windows app, with installers for everything from Windows 3.1 up through Vista and beyond.

Download PrintFile

Universal audio tag editor

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Mp3tag

If you are a fan of iTunes, or have so many MP3s that you're seriously looking at getting a bigger hard drive, then you know about "tags". These little bits of meta data associated with your audio files are what makes it easy to build playlists by genre, or to figure out who composed which songs on that new album. You can get in there and edit this stuff through iTunes and other audio players, but that's not what they were built for—it's kind of like how you could keep the books for your business on a spreadsheet, but might be better served by using a dedicated finance program.

Mp3tag is a tool designed specifically to tweak the tags in your audio files. Make your adjustments one-at-a-time, or go into full batch mode, editing tags for multiple files at once. You can enter data directly, or let the tool query databases from Amazon, MusicBrainz, and others, so you can get all the info you really need. You can also use it to create playlists, add cover art, and more.

A Windows app, Mp3tag is a free download. The current version runs under WinXP and later, but they do still have down-rev versions available that go back as far as Windows 95.

Download Mp3tag

File format converter

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Fileminx

It's always something. They give you plastic, but you wanted paper. You get chocolate, but really had a hankering for vanilla. You downloaded a WMV but can only deal with MOV. What'cha gonna' do?

Fileminx is a service that lets you convert files from one format into another. It supports all manner of popular file formats for text, images, music, and video. PDF your Word DOC without any need to invest in or install any fancy tools. Convert a BMP into a web-friendly PNG. Convert WMV into MOV to watch on your Mac—or go the other way to watch on your PC. And it's easy to use; just browse to the file on your system, choose which format you want it converted into, and press the magic button. Their little file-converting elves get right to work, and quick-like-a-bunny, your newly-converted file is ready to download.

You don't have to sign up, and it doesn't cost anything to use Fileminx. All you need is a web browser and the desire to convert a file.

Download Fileminx