Archive for March, 2011

Open source support ticket system

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of osTicket

If you're running a business, hopefully you've got customers. And whether you're selling goods or services, sooner or later somebody's going to need some attention. How you respond to customer service situations can have a big impact on your success, so you want to make sure you don't let any problems fall through the cracks. What you need is a helpdesk solution.

osTicket is a free support ticket system. It's easy to set up, which is great for you, and easy for your customers to access, which is even better. Users can enter info to create help tickets via web, email, or phone, and they'll get a note back letting them know that they're in the system. From your site, you can answer inquires with canned text, or you can send custom messages to grab any additional information you may need, as well as keeping the customer up to date on how their ticket is progressing. Customers don't need to log in to use the system, which may help them with any privacy concerns. On your site, it's easy to assign and transfer tickets, and role-based access keeps your process rolling along and allows for adequate supervision and oversight.

osTicket is a free download. You install it on your server and need to be running at least PHP (ver. 4.3) and MySQL (ver. 4.4).

Download osTicket

Condolence Letters

Friday, March 11th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Condolence Letters

"To every thing there is a season… A time to be born, and a time to die"
—Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

The old joke has it that the only two things certain in life are death and taxes. While that certainly seems to be true, the inevitability of death doesn't make it any easier to bear. When a friend, relative, or business associate suffers a loss, there's really nothing we can do to take away their pain. What we can do, however, is to let them know that we're thinking of them. That's where a letter of condolence comes in.

While it may be easier to just grab a greeting card off the shelf, sending a personal letter of condolence will let the bereaved know that you care and are thinking of them in their time of loss. It's not always easy to know just what to say in that letter, and that's where Condolence Letters comes in.

This site features several different sample letters of condolence that you can use as a starting point for your own personal letter. They have letters for personal situations, as well as letters suitable for the workplace, and even the military. Along with several general condolence letters, they also feature tips on how to write a condolence letter.

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

Download Condolence Letters

Easy way to enter commands without Terminal

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of DTerm

If you're serious about getting work done on your machine, you know that sometimes you're going to have to dig deeper than that nice Mac interface. We speak, of course, of the dreaded Terminal. Whether it's some involved Unix-y thing happening, or you need to get in there and tweak permissions on a file, you need the flexibility and control that only a console window is going to give to you. But that doesn't mean that you have to be thrown to the wolves.

DTerm is a terminal app that gives you a hand with this. No matter which app you're running, just hit DTerm's hotkey combination and you'll get a command prompt in the current working directory. Enter your command, the deed is done, and you're on your way. Much handier than opening Terminal and then navigating through layers and layers of directory structure to get to where you need to go. It also features command autocompletion and keeps a history of recent commands, so it's easy to do repetitive stuff as well.

DTerm is a Mac application. It runs under OS X and requires version 10.5 (Leopard) or later, on either a PowerPC or Intel box.

Download DTerm

Lock your system with ClearLock

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of ClearLock

When you walk away from your machine, Windows lets you choose to keep everybody else out of your business by locking your machine. If nothing interesting is happening on your computer, that's fine, but if the reason you're walking away is because you are compiling a big program or running a backup or huge download, it might be nice to see how things are progressing. Enter ClearLock.

With ClearLock, you protect your system from nefarious neighbors getting in and messing around with things. The only way to get control back on the system it to enter a password. In the meantime, you can still see what's going on because instead of blanking out the screen, ClearLock just overlays a dark but translucent layer on top of everything else. Now you'll be able to see when the download has completed, so you can get back to work. Now keep in mind that this isn't some high-tech solution, since its configuration information sits in a plaintext .INI file, but it should help keep the casual snoop out of your business.

ClearLock is a free Windows application.

Download ClearLock

Free to-do list application

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of TaskMate

It's not enough that you have so many things to do during a typical day. Along with all those tasks is the sometimes even bigger job of keeping track of it all. If you're rolling in dough, maybe you've got a personal assistant to keep track of all this stuff. For the rest of us, you just can't beat a good to-do list. You can keep track of it all on a Post-it or the back of an envelope, but if there's more than a couple of things to keep track of, you're quickly going to outgrow that system. That's where a tool like TaskMate can come in handy.

With TaskMate, it's easy to add or remove tasks from your list. Tick a checkbook when you complete a task and it's removed from the list to get it out of your way, but it's easy to bring it back if you need to review what you've done or answer the "where did all my time go today?" question. You can export your list, after a fashion, into TextEdit, and from there you can copy and paste into other applications. You can customize how tasks are displayed, adding new tasks at the top of the list, down at the bottom, or immediately before a selected task already on the list. If you really want to stay on task, you can have TaskMate stay on top, so it'll always be there to remind you of what you've got to do next.

TaskMate is a free download. It's a Mac application and runs on systems under Leopard (OS X 10.5) and later.

Download TaskMate

Free online project management tool

Monday, March 7th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Freedcamp

Project management is not easy. Getting people to work together can be challenging. Keeping track of which tasks have been completed and which are yet to be done can be daunting. And that, boys and girls, is why they invented project management software.

Freedcamp is a web application that can give you a hand if you draw the short straw and end up leading your group's next big project. Keep track of your assets, monitor your to-do lists, manage discussions, share files, and more. You can monitor your project's overall progress, or you can drill down and look at individual contributions. Are you meeting all your milestones, or is there a bottleneck in a critical path? Freedcamp has built-in communications capabilities as well, with integrated email, instant messaging, and even an RSS feed. Everybody will know when they've received a new assignment and how things are progressing overall.

Freedcamp is free to use. Since it's a web app, there's nothing to download, and it should work on any system with a recent browser.

Download Freedcamp

Unlimited file transfer with FilePhile

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of FilePhile

With small files, it's easy to share them with your colleagues by just attaching them to an email. If you're moving bigger files around, you may use a free file-sharing system (or the free portion of a paid system like Dropbox). But all of these come with limits, mostly because at some point in the process your files are living on their servers, taking up their disk space and using their bandwidth. For really really big files, you need another solution.

FilePhile is a service that lets you share files of any size you want, no matter how big. They accomplish this by virtue of the fact that at no point do your files sit on their servers. You install their desktop app on your machine, and make sure that your recipient has installed it on theirs as well, and then just start moving files across the wire. FilePhile is smart enough to keep uploading files after being interrupted by network problems, machines going to sleep, and all that.

FilePhile is a free service. The desktop app is written in Java, so it will run on Linux, Mac, and Windows machines, and the sender and recipient don't even need to be on the same platform to get the job done.

Download FilePhile

Free password generator

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Password Generator

A good password is a complex password. If you just use your pet's name, your birthday, or "password", you're just asking for your account to be compromised, whether it's just your Gmail login or your bank account. What you need is a good password. Sometimes, though, it's just too hard to come up with one that's sufficiently complicated to get the job done.

Password Generator is a tool that can help you come up with a good, hard-to-break, password. You can choose from three levels of password complexity: a "normal" one that's going to mix all kinds of characters together, a "compatible" password that avoids upper case and non-alphanumeric characters, and then super-duper "extreme" password that includes all kinds of special characters. Unlike using "Fluffy" for your password, these are all going to be hard to remember, so you'll probably want to keep them in some sort of password locker tool, because if you misplace these guys, it's not going to be easy to log into your accounts.

You can download Password Generator for free and run it on your Windows system.

Download Password Generator

Tiny Watcher monitors system changes

Friday, March 4th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Tiny Watcher

If the real world, you kind of expect things to stay as you left them. If when you leave for the office in the morning you have green carpet in the living room, you kind of expect that it'll still be there when you get home. If you returned to find oak hardwood there instead, you'd definitely take notice. So why should things be different on your computer? When you install a new app on your computer, you know that things are going to get shaken up. If nothing else, at least the executable for that new program is going to be written to your system, as well a possibly all kinds of support- and resource files. But is there anything else going on? Maybe tomorrow that new app will have run an automatic update on itself. Or maybe it's downloaded some other stuff to your disk, and not bothered to tell you about it. So how are you ever going to stay on top of all this?

Tiny Watcher keeps an eye on changes to your system. By taking a snapshot of critical areas of your system, it can tell you when something has changed. While you know about the new app you installed, you might not have known that it added itself to your Start menu, as well as putting an icon on your desktop, writing a Registry entry, and maybe even adding itself to your startup items. Tiny Watcher knows, though, and will let you know what it finds. It just sits in your System Tray and leaves you alone, until it detects a change, and then raises the alarm.

You can download a copy of Tiny Watcher for your Windows system for free.

Download Tiny Watcher

Add apps to Send To menu

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of SendToAny

Windows Explorer is the GUI way to interact with your system. Along with letting you navigate through the directory structure on your machine, it lets you run the apps that you bought your computer to use: word processors, web browsers, and all that. It's handy to be able to double-click a program icon or data file and get some work done. But like many one-size-fits-all solutions, sometimes Windows doesn't exactly do what you want. Typically, if you double-click a Word DOC file, your system's going to fire up Microsoft Word and open that document in it. But what if you want to open that DOC in OpenOffice instead? All of a sudden, "Open" isn't going to do what you need.

SendToAny is a tool that makes it easier to open files using applications that aren't the default app for a given file. When you right-click on a file, among the options you typically see is the "Send To" menu. Generally there may be a few choices in there, but certainly not all the options that could be available to you. But with SendToAny, choosing Send To will now let you send any file to any application on your system, including those listed on the Start Menu, those sitting on the Desktop, and even apps in the Quick Launch Menu. Send an image to your browser instead of to Photoshop; send a CSV file to your text editor instead of Excel.

SendToAny is a free download. You can use it on Windows systems running XP or later.

Download SendToAny