Archive for February, 2011

See all your browser windows at once

Monday, February 28th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Slickscreen

Do you ever have to do two things at once? Of course you do! When you're juggling tasks on your computer, things can get mighty complicated on the screen, with windows here and tabs there. Rearranging things to get all the stuff you need to see visible all at once can be a major challenge, as well as a big time drain.

Slickscreen is a tool you can use to help you manage your web browser better. Once you install it, fire up your web browser and put it to work. It comes with 6 pre-defined layouts that lets you position your browser windows for maximum visibility and no overlap. Now you can see all the web pages you're looking at all at once, and without having to fight with resizing browser windows. You've got that big display, and now you'll finally be able to put it to good use. And it's compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and more.

You can run Slickscreen under Windows XP and later. It's free for personal and educational use, although if you want to use it at work, you're going to need to spring a few bucks for a license.

Download Slickscreen

Remove empty directories

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Remove Empty Directories

Of all the problems you could have with your computer, having a bunch of empty directories probably falls pretty far down the list. After all, it's not hard drive failure, or a nasty virus, or even emptying the Recycle Bin too soon. Nevertheless, it might be nice to get rid of those empty folders to keep things humming along. But how do you find them?

Remove Empty Directories is a tool that can lend a hand to your quest. Turn it loose on your system and it will find all those empty folders that you want to get rid of. You can protect directories that you don't want to app to look at. And as a bonus, you can also specify as empty folders which contain only certain files, like "Thumbs.db" or "*.ini". You'll get to review what it finds before sending your directories away, and can decide how your folders will be deleted: sent to Recycle Bin, deleted straight-away, that sort of thing.

You can download Remove Empty Directories for free. It's a Windows app and runs under WinXP and later. It also requires version 3.5 or later of the .NET Framework.

Download Remove Empty Directories

Online information manager

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Flexadex

We're all familiar with the notion of information overload. We've got contact lists, web bookmarks, and no end of sticky notes glued to our computer monitors just to try to keep track of the "who" and "what" of our complicated lives. If you're looking for a better system, you might check out Flexadex.

While Flexadex can be thought of as an online address book, it might be more properly called a text information organizer. What it really is is a freeform online database that allows you to write notes to yourself that include a title, the main body of your note, and also tags to help you better organize things. Each entry can contain up to 50,000 characters, so you're probably not going to run out of room. And if you do, just add another entry and keep on going. Its Web interface is intuitive and easy to use, and they've even got a minimalist mobile version for you to use on the go.

Flexadex is a free online service.

Download Flexadex

Goodbye Letters

Friday, February 25th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Goodbye Letters

It's never easy to say goodbye. Whether we're parting ways with a loved one who will be missed terribly, or getting away from a terrible situation, whether it's personal, work related, or something else, there is no end of raw emotion that comes to the surface when we make that final farewell.

Goodbye Letters is a service that can help make that goodbye a little easier. While they don't know all the particulars in your case, they do have some good ideas about what a goodbye letter ought to look like and what it should include. They've got some tips on writing those letters, and along with that, they've got samples of letters suitable for use in the workplace, at school, and for relationships, as well as several more general goodbye letters. And for the most modern among us, they've even got a goodbye email. No SMS text message is offered though—you've got to try a little harder than that.

Goodbye Letters are all available for free. They're downloadable in Microsoft Word DOC format.

Download Goodbye Letters

Rename files in bulk

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Panda Batch File Renamer

You've got a name. I've got a name. All the files on your computer have names. If you or I don't like our name, we have to go to court to change it. If you want to rename stuff on the computer, it's easier than that. Unless you want to rename a whole bunch of files at once. Rather than renaming one file at a time, what you need here is a batch renaming tool, something like Panda Batch File Renamer.

With Panda Batch File Renamer, it's easy to change the names of a single file or a whole bunch of them. Strip characters out, stick new ones in, replace "foo" with "bar", add a sequential number or date, change case, and more. And it supports regular expressions, so you can build some pretty complicated scenarios.

Panda Batch File Renamer is free for non-commercial use. It's a Windows application.

Download Panda Batch File Renamer

Regular Expressions made easy

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Expresso

In humanity's rise from the primordial goo to hunter-gatherer to modern society, one of the things that has set us apart from other critters is our use of tools. Yes, there are some animals that use tools as well, but nothing as widespread as good old Homo sapiens. And consider some of those tools: the wheel, fire, regular expressions.

If you spend much time with and around computers, that last one, regular expressions, is probably almost as important as the first two, if not actually more. The use of regular expressions in executing complex searches for strings of text can be a huge time saver, as well as helping you to find all instances of the text you're looking for. Just because it's so valuable and important, however, is no reason to believe that regular expressions are easy.

Using a complicated formal language, applications that allow the use of regular expressions let the user carry out very complex searches. But building those queries can be quite a daunting task. With a tool like Expresso, it's much easier to build just the right regular expression for the task at hand. Working through its easy-to-use interface, you don't have to remember the difference between "*" (any number of characters), "+" (one or more characters), or "?" (zero or one characters) when building queries. If you're a RegExp noob, it's a great learning tool; if you're an expert, it allows you to craft even more complicated expressions.

Expresso is a Windows application. It's free to download and use, but you'll need to register it (also free) before you hit day 60 if you want to avoid a nag screen.

Download Expresso

Keep your Mac running like a top

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of IceClean

Like any other complex piece of machinery, your computer could use a good tune up now and then. Even though your Mac has some built-in self-repair functionality courtesy of its underlying Unix-y-ness, there are still areas that can remain untouched until you jump in and do something about it.

There are several scripts that OS X runs automatically at predetermined times to try to keep things humming along. Unfortunately, most of those happen in the middle of the night, and if your computer is asleep or shut down then, they just won't happen. And then there's the other stuff: repairing permissions, cleaning up cached files, and all that. Your car can't change its own oil (and no, leaking all the oil out on the driveway doesn't count), so you help it along. In the same way, with IceClean, you can give your Mac a hand.

IceClean features a whole bunch of tools to help keep your Mac happy. Empty caches, force empty the trash, quit creating those pesky .DS_Store files on remote volumes, and more. In addition, it's a quick and easy way to access many system utilities, to check on network status, performance information, and the like.

You can grab IceClean for free. It runs under OS X, with the current release running under 10.5 (Leopard) and later; in addition, they still offer a version compatible with Tiger (10.4).

Download IceClean

DropIt takes the work out of sorting files

Monday, February 21st, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of DropIt

For many folks, the work day consists of a few brief moments of clarity and insight, mixed in with a whole lot of tedium and routine. Sure, you had that great idea about how to make a zillion dollars, but you still have to reply to emails, fill out your timesheet, that kind of thing. If only there were some way to help make the mindless stuff take up less of your personal bandwidth.

DropIt can help you with one of your more routine and mundane tasks: sorting files. Unless you just leave everything piled up on your Desktop, you need to put your work files away from time to time. That means opening a bunch of different windows in Windows Explorer, correctly identifying files, and then dragging them into the appropriate location so that you can find them again the next time you need them. DropIt makes this whole process easier by sorting your files and sending them off the correct location. You build patterns—filters—that allow you to send your Word DOCs one direction, and your Excel spreadsheets another. Along with assigning destination folders, you can choose how your files are handled: copied, compressed, moved, or more.

DropIt is a free Windows application.

Download DropIt

WordPress Theme Generator

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of WordPress Theme Generator

Everybody's got a blog nowadays. Some are serious, some are silly, but they all have (at least) one thing in common: they have to live somewhere. For the quick and dirty setup, there is no end of blog hosts out there, where you get to make a few minor tweaks to look-and-feel, but the heavy lifting is left to someone else. Or for the adventurous, you can set up your own blog on a server that you (or your ISP) control. While there's a lot more work involved, getting the web server to talk to the database server and all that, you can take charge of a lot more of how the whole thing works. If you're in this latter group, and WordPress is your platform of choice, then once you're set up, you have to go look for a theme.

Sure, you could use WordPress straight out of the box, but part of the fun of running a blog is getting to decide just what it's going to look like. Generally this means searching the Web looking for a downloadable theme to use with your blog. Maybe you'll be successful, or maybe you won't. Even though you can customize WordPress manually, it's not a job for the faint-of-heart. That means you're at the mercy of the folks who build themes. Until now.

WordPress Theme Generator is an online service that lets you build your own custom WordPress Theme. Choose the colors and fonts you like, add a sidebar or two, even pick how you want your menus to display. You can preview your creation online, and if you decide you like it, download it and install on your server. And you don't need to know a lick of HTML or PHP, or anything about stylesheets.

Download WordPress Theme Generator

Remove older files from your Recycle Bin

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of BinManager

The Windows Recycle Bin is a handy tool. When you delete a file, it isn't really deleted, instead it's moved into this location and held there, just in case you want to bring it back at some point. No doubt it was created by some engineer who had just deleted the wrong file one time too many and decided that there had to be an easier way to deal with things.

Unfortunately, once you stick a file in there, it's going to hang around for a long time. Now maybe that's good, if you're careless or indecisive, but beyond that, it may be just taking up space. We don't know if there's some study out there regarding the half-life of a deleted file—the point at which it's likely that that not-really-deleted file won't ever need to be resurrected, you probably have a sense yourself of what that number might be like. Indeed, it's probably more likely that you'll want to get back a file from two hours ago or two days ago than it is that you'll want to get back something from two weeks ago or two months ago. With BinManager, you can take control of that time horizon.

Rather than having your Recycle Bin emptying be an all-or-nothing proposition, you can choose a time frame for your deletions. Once BinManager is installed, you'll get a choice in the right-click context menu for your Recycle Bin that lets you specify the age of files you're comfortable getting rid of, whether it's a day or two, a week, or even a month.

BinManager is a free download for your Windows system.

Download BinManager