Archive for May, 2011

Free ZIP archiver

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Hamster Free Zip Archiver

Archives are a handy way to deal with files. Whether it's a matter of taking a bunch of individual files and bundling them together, or taking big files and squishing them down into a more manageable size, archiving tools are the way to go. With modern operating systems, there is often some archiving functionality built in to your system, but that doesn't always mean it's going to be the best solution. For that, you may want to look at a third party app.

Hamster Free Zip Archiver is one such tool. It's easy to use, with a drag and drop interface that makes it easy to start archiving your data. It supports several popular, and even some more obscure, archive formats, meaning if you've got a file, you can probably open it with this. For newbies, there's even a wizard to help you get up to speed in no time. You can create archives of various sizes by either letting them just be built, or by choosing from several popular preset sizes, like for CDs, DVDs, etc.

A free download, Hamster Free Zip Archiver is a Windows application. It's happy on systems running XP and later.

Download Hamster Free Zip Archiver

Turn your function keys into function keys

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of FunctionFlip

While it may be handy to put so many controls on the function keys of your Mac–brightness, mute, that kind of stuff–it's kind of a pain in the neck when you actually want to use your function keys as function keys. Hitting that "fn" key along with your key is a bit of a bother. So how about making a quickie change to that?

FunctionFlip is a slick little app that lets you invert the functionality of your function keys. Fire it up and now your function keys behave like function keys, and the other uses for those keys–changing volume, ejecting optical media–now require the "fn" key. You have basically flipped the function of the function keys. You can choose to filp individual keys, or go nuts and flip them all, it's all up to you.

You can grab a copy of FunctionFlip for free. It's a Mac application and runs under version 10.5 (Leopard) and later of OS X.

Download FunctionFlip

Disk Space Usage Analyzer

Monday, May 9th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of RidNacs

How much space do you have on that hard drive? Even though storage prices continue to head down, nobody really wants to waste space. Documents, movies, and all kinds of other goodies have a way of building up over time, leading to more sluggish system performance, and ultimately the need to upgrade to an even bigger drive. Maybe it's time to nip that problem in the bud.

RidNacs is a disk space usage analyzer. Start it up, and it goes out and takes a look around to see what you've got. Once it's done, it gives you a graphical display of the results in the form of a bar graph, helping you to see where all that space has gone. While it's handy to look at onscreen, you can also export your report in several formats, allowing you to print it out or to compare with the next time you run the tool. Now you'll know exactly where all that space has gone.

RidNacs is a Windows application.

Download RidNacs

Universal spell check

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Enso Words

Neatness counts, and accuracy is important. When it comes to spelling, some of the apps we use everyday have our back, and help point out those embarrassing typos and misspelled words that can cause problems for us. Unfortunately, that's not a universal functionality, and there are plenty of tools in use that don't pay any attention to those errors, letting us just fumble along until a misspelling bites us back, whether because of a goofy-looking blog post, or maybe a quick little note you threw together in a text editor that makes us look not so smart.

Enso Words is a universal spell check tool for Windows users. You don't have to worry whether the app you're running supports spell checking, so you can focus on the task at hand. In addition to catching those spelling errors, this app also helps you out with character- and word-count, helpful for those 25 character text fields or 1000 word blog posts. It also can give you a hand with word definitions, and even suggest other terms to use via its thesaurus functionality. While it's not quite as good as having a proofreader sitting at your elbow, it's certainly a lot more convenient.

Enso Words is a free download and runs on Windows 2000 and later.

Download Enso Words

Free online database system

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Grubba

Data is just data until you can't find the piece you're looking for; at that point it becomes a headache. Some things just make more sense when they're organized, and for that you need a database management tool.

Grubba is an online service that helps you to get organized. Choose from one of their templates, or build your own system from scratch. You can define the fields you want and give them the characteristics you need–maybe a long chunk of text here, maybe a shorter number, or even a currency amount there. Your forms can be interactive as well, not just textboxes to enter data, but also dropdown boxes where you can choose from lists, or checkboxes you can tick–basically all the kinds of stuff you could do with Access or FileMaker, but without the headache of installing it on your system. Or paying for it. Organize your finances, administer your organization's mailing list, it's all up to you. You get to work with five different forms, and you can import- and export data between Grubba and other tools like Excel and OpenOffice.

A free online service, Grubba only requires a web browser to use. And if you decide you really like it, they'll be happy to receive a small donation from you, although you're under no obligation to do so.

Download Grubba

Stop that spam

Friday, May 6th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Spamihilator

There's a Nigerian prince out there, and he's looking for you. You may have gotten an email or two from him somewhere along the line. You know you can put an end to that, right?

Spamihilator is a spam filtering application that you can stick in there between your email client and the Internet. It acts as a proxy, grabbing your mail from the various POP and IMAP mail servers you connect to, and filters out the crud before passing it along to your regular desktop mail client. It's got a trainable filter, as well as letting you enter your own stop words and regular expressions making it easier for it to detect spam the more you use it. And just in case of a false positive, it keeps track of everything it flags as spam, so you can go in and check things out yourself to make sure that you're not tossing out good email along with the bad.

You can use Spamihilator on your Windows system. It runs under Win2k and later, and supports just about all POP3 and IMAP email clients.

Download Spamihilator

Supercharge your clipboard

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Shapeshifter

There are all kinds of clipboard enhancers out there, each one striving to add to the functionality or ease-of-use of the Windows system clipboard. Since the default behavior for the clipboard is to only keep track of one item at a time, these aftermarket add-ons can be quite helpful in terms of our productivity.

Shapeshifter is a tool that lets you copy a number of items, both text and graphics, to the clipboard. You copy or cut items to the clipboard the same way you always have with the [Ctrl] + C keystroke combination. The difference with this tool comes when you paste your snippets into the target window or application. When you type [Ctrl] + V, the standard keystroke to get the job done, up pops Shapeshifter's menu. Keep those keys down and choose the item you want pasted from the clipboard, and then release the keys, and you stick that content into the target location. It makes life a whole lot easier than having to rely on multiple back-and-forths to copy and paste multiple items into a new document.

You can grab a copy of Shapeshifter for free. It runs on Windows boxes under Vista or Windows 7, in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors.

Download Shapeshifter

Keep your apps up to date with Ninite

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Ninite

How many apps do you have installed on your machine? And how up to date are they? With new versions of popular software being released all the time, it could practically be a full-time job just trying to keep up with all the changes. And even though some of the changes are just cosmetic, or adding some new "gee whiz" features to your favorite program, others are intended to fix nasty security flaws that may be uncovered from time to time. You certainly don't want to miss that upgrade!

Ninite is a service that helps you keep your machine humming along with the latest version of lots of your favorite applications. Their focus is on the big-name free apps where we spend so much of our time, like the Firefox web browser, Skype Internet phone service, 7-zip archiving tool, and more. It's easy to set up your own custom updater: just select the applications you want Ninite to bring current, click the button, and you get a custom installer that will help to install the latest versions of your apps on your system. And it's designed in such a way that if you run that same installer again in a week or a month, it will check your system again and install any updates that have been released since the last time you ran it. That's certainly convenient.

Ninite is a free service. They can work with both Windows and Linux systems.

Download Ninite

Focus on the task at hand

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of Haze Over

Some people have the gift of extreme concentration. They're the ones who can read the newspaper while standing on the bus, or who can have the TV blaring, tunes blasting away, the phone ringing, and they still get that important report done ahead of schedule. Congratulations to them; for the rest of us, a little help might be nice.

Haze Over is a tool that helps make it easier to concentrate if you're easily distracted. Once it's up and running, your front-most application looks like it always does, but the windows for all those background apps are dimmed—hazed-over, if you will—making them much less noticeable while you're trying to focus on the task at hand. Maybe now you can focus on that important task and go home at a decent time for a change.

Haze Over is a free Mac application. It runs under OS X version 10.5 and later.

Download Haze Over

Business Plan Templates

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Business Plan Templates

If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? When you sit down to read a book, you know what your goal is: to finish the book. Cooking a fancy dinner? You'll recognize the yummy stuff on the plate and the look of contentment on the face of the diners. But what about your business? Do you just open the doors and start selling stuff? But what kind of stuff, who are you selling to, how much business can you expect? Sounds like you could use a plan.

Business Plan Templates can give you a hand with figuring just what you need to do to make your first million, or at least with getting your business off the ground (the first million is up to you). Check out their "how to" articles on why you need a business plan, what to include (and what to avoid) in your business plan, and different types of business plans. Along with generalized generic business plan templates, they've also got business plan templates for specific businesses, like restaurants, retail stores, daycare centers, and more. In addition, they've also got a bunch of forms that can be helpful to you in writing your business plan, like Start Up Expense and Cost Analysis worksheets.

The Business Plan Templates are available as Word DOC files, and many of the forms and worksheets are available as Excel XLS worksheets as well as Word DOCs. And they're all available for free.

Download Business Plan Templates