Archive for August, 2011

Turn your screensaver into wallpaper

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of PaperScreen

So how do you like that fancy screensaver? You spent a fair amount of time and trouble finding just the right one. But while it's nice to look at, you don't get to spend much time with it, since the very nature of a screensaver is such that it does most of its work while you're not sitting there watching. Do you need to spend more time in front of your monitor not getting anything done just so you can enjoy the view?

Paper Screen is an application that takes your screensaver and uses it as your desktop wallpaper. Now instead of never getting to see all those swooping, swirling colors, you'll see them all the time, because they'll be right there behind the rest of what you're doing. The only problem now will be concentrating on your work instead of just looking at the pretty colors.

PaperScreen is a Mac application. It should run under OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or later.

Download PaperScreen

Preview images

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of NexusImage

Maybe you just came back from vacation, or perhaps you just went nuts online downloading photos. Or perhaps you're compiling a big report and have all the photos and other images you have to make your case for why you should land that new contract. Whatever the reason, you find yourself with a whole bunch of images you need to sort through and make sense of. You could open them up one at a time in Photoshop. Or you could beat your head against the wall. Either way will be just as productive.

NexusImage is an image previewer that can help you see what you've really got in all those pictures. Fire it up and you get a screen with a line of thumbnail images down the side. Choose a picture to look at more closely and it pops up in a "lightbox", that float-above-the-page style that you've seen all over on websites. Along with previewing the images themselves, you can look at the Exif info for behind-the-scenes information on your photos. And to help you remember the subject and context for your images, you can also add captions to your pictures.

NexusImage is a free download. It's a Windows app and runs under XP / Vista / 7.

Download NexusImage

File manager for Mac

Monday, August 29th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of Xfolders

If you're up and running on a Mac, you know that Finder is your friend. And your enemy. Like Windows Explorer on a PC, Finder is the file manager and application manager you use to navigate around on your computer. There's lots of cool stuff you can do with it, but it does have its limitations as well.

Xfolders is a Mac file manager app that can work with or instead of Finder. Its main window has two panes, so you can look at two different folders—or volumes—at the same time. Drag and drop files, copy and paste them between panes. Compare files and folders to see what they have in common and where they differ. Show or hide hidden "dot" files and other system files. And it's got a built-in terminal for one-off Unix-y commands, as well as an internal image preview tool to let you see what's in the folder you're digging through.

Xfolders is a free download. It's a Mac application and runs on systems up through (at least) OS X 10.5 (Leopard), on both PowerPC and Intel-powered Macs.

Download Xfolders

Task automation app

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Task Till Dawn

With all the games, music, and video clips you deal with each day, it might seem that your computer is a toy. For many of us, though, this piece of high tech wizardry is really a tool, and you use tools to get work done. Some work—typing reports, setting up spreadsheets—has to be done hands-on. But there is some stuff that you can actually leave up to the machine to take care of business. Things like backing up data and compiling programs don't really require that you interact with the computer at all, with the possible exception of getting things started. For tasks like that, check out Task Till Dawn.

With Task Till Dawn you can let your machine do the deed. Choose an app and a time and you can automatically run a backup, download a podcast, defragment your hard drive, or just about anything else that doesn't require hands-on attention from you. Once your job has been run, it can notify you via Growl (on Mac) or in the System Tray (Windows).

A free download, Task Till Dawn is written in Java, so it should run just about anywhere. And to help you out, they've got a couple of pre-compiled versions for Mac (Intel only) and Windows, with the promise of a Linux version coming soon.

Download Task Till Dawn

Find that file

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of FileSearchEX

You can't use things if you can't find them. Headed off to the hardware store to find that new gadget you've been reading about? That's great, if you can find it. Need to revise that report you wrote last week—or last year? Sure, it's on your computer, but who knows where it ended up. If you can't find it, you can't use it.

FileSearchEX is a search tool for Windows. Back in the day, it was easy to search for and find files on your Windows box. Now with Windows 7, things have gotten a whole lot more complicated. That's where FileSearchEX comes in. It brings an XP style search back to your computer. Give it a file name, or partial name, maybe some text you think is in the file, and where to start looking, and you're off to the races. If you want to get more specific in your search, you can also add in date and file size information. Now you'll find that report, so you can spiff it up to re-use. And good luck at the hardware store.

FileSearchEX is a Windows application. It's free for personal use.

Download FileSearchEX

Grab web content for your eBook reader

Friday, August 26th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of GrabMyBooks

Congratulations! You just grabbed yourself one of those fancy, newfangled eBook readers. Goodbye dog-eared pages, hello convenience. It's like sticking a whole library in your pocket or briefcase, perfect for that long trip, day at the beach, or just curling up on the couch with a cup of cocoa. Then there's the matter of filling it up with content. You can buy the electronic version of a new book, or grab some older public domain volume. What if you're looking for something a little different?

GrabMyBooks is an add-on for Firefox that lets you grab online content and convert it into ePub format, which is compatible with just about everybody's eReader (although apparently not your Kindle). Find the site or story you're interested in, push the magic button, and GrabMyBooks will reach out and grab the content off the page, avoiding menus and all the other stuff cluttering up the screen in the process. Once you're imported the content, you can go back and edit and tweak things to help make them easier to deal with. This could all be quite helpful with technical material or sales information that's available only online, or just stuff that nobody's bothered to compile for you to read.

GrabMyBooks is a free download. Since it runs on top of Firefox, it should work just fine on any platform that supports that browser.

Download GrabMyBooks

Crop and resize images online

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Pic Resize

It's just one little picture, and all you need to do is resize it. It's not worth firing-up Photoshop (or going out and buying Photoshop) to do this little job. But you can't exactly take out a pair of scissors to trim the edges off that PNG to make it fit better into your blog post. And if what you really need to do is scale it larger or smaller, there's no real-world analog for that task (wash it in really hot water?).

Pic Resize is an online service that lets you tweak your images easily and quickly. Browse through your filesystem to your image and choose it. You can do a quickie resize, or crop the image to fit. Rotate it for good measure if you like. You can even grab multiple images at a time if you're got a bunch of 'em to process. When you're all done, you can save your image as a GIF, JPG, PNG, or BMP and download it or save it to the web. And 20 minutes after your download it, they throw it all away, so you don't need to worry about your stuff just floating around out there in the Cloud.

Pic Resize is a free online service. All you need to use it is a web browser.

Download Pic Resize

Track your hours with Kapow punch clock application

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Kapow

How busy are you? You know that you're pushing yourself to get as much done in as little time as possible. But how much time is that? If you're working by the hour, or if you're on a tight deadline, there are important numbers here to keep track of. And if you're splitting your time between multiple projects, it's even more important to know how much time you're allocating to each project.

Kapow is a punch clock tool to let you keep track of how you're spending your time. Click the Start button, do your work, and click the Stop button, and your time's all recorded. Forgot to clock out when you took a break, or didn't clock in until you'd already been at your desk for half an hour? Just go back and edit your numbers and you're back in business. Along with tracking individual sessions, Kapow also tracks total cumulative time, so you can see how much time you're spent in total on this project, as well as how long you've worked since the last time you billed your client.

Kapow is a cross-platform app. It's available for Linux (several packages are available for popular distros), Mac (OS X 10.4 "Tiger" or better), as well as Windows XP and later.

Download Kapow

Control iTunes with mute key and headphone jack

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of Breakaway

You know the drill: you're busily working away on some project with iTunes humming along in the background, minimized to the Dock. Somebody walks into your office / cubicle / broom closet and needs your attention, or the phone rings and you've got to pick up, or your coffee cup just hit empty and it's time for a refill. You don't want to miss the next cut on that album you're listening to, so you've got to pause iTunes. But that means you've got to find it, restore it, hit the pause button, and all that. Pretty complicated.

Breakaway is an app that makes it easier to break away without missing out on your tunes. Once it's up and running, just hit the mute button on your keyboard and you'll automatically pause iTunes. Or pull your headphones out of the jack and Breakaway will automatically pause iTunes. While it may be hard to find that iTunes icon, it's easy to find the keyboard or the other end of your headphone cord. Problem solved. Finish your conversation. Get that coffee. ABBA will be waiting for you when you get back.

Breakaway is a free download. It's a Mac application.

Download Breakaway

Free Word Search Puzzles

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Free Word Search Puzzles

We love puzzles. Whether it's a rainy afternoon or a long ride in the car, it's fun to work on and solve paper and pencil puzzles. One of our favorite formats is the word search puzzle. You get a block of seemingly random letters all jumbled together and your goal is to find the words hidden in among all the letters.

Free Word Search Puzzles offers dozens and dozens of puzzles that you can print out and solve. There are puzzles focusing on history, science, and religion, or just plain old fun. And once you've exhausted the possibilities there, they've also got a tool where you can build your own word search puzzles. Start with simple ones with the words laid out nicely in rows and columns; jump to medium difficulty puzzles where the words can also be backwards; go to hard puzzles where words are laid out on the diagonal; or even to difficult, where misspellings are included as well. Puzzles can range from a tiny 9 x 9 all the way up to a large 20 x 20 grid.

Free Word Search Puzzles, including your custom puzzles, are all available for free. All you need to use them are a web browser to download them, and a sharp eye to find all those hidden words.

Download Free Word Search Puzzles