Archive for September, 2011

Easy access to menubar apps

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of AccessMenuBarApps

One of the cool things about your Mac is those neat little menubar apps that just sit up there at the top of your screen. Along with your clock and speaker volume control, you can add these little programs that are then always available to you. Depending on which ones you install, you can monitor your CPU usage, check out the contents of your clipboard, keep a to-do list, and much more. Unfortunately, though, as you keep adding those apps, their icons on the menubar take up more and more space, until you find yourself with some being cut off because they're being eclipsed by menu items belonging to apps you're running on your machine.

AccessMenuBarApps may be able to help you recapture some of that real estate on the menubar. With this tool running, it's easy to access "reduced menu apps" like Menuola, that by virtue of their having minimal menus (Menuola's application menu consists only of the letter "M"), minimize the amount of space that their menu takes up, leaving the maximum amount of menubar available for all those nifty little menubar apps. Maybe not such a big deal on that huge cinema display, but definitely a lifesaver on your 13-inch Macbook.

AccessMenuBarApps is a Mac application, and you can download it for free.

Download AccessMenuBarApps

Windows application launcher

Monday, September 19th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Executor

You've got a whole pile of applications on your machine. While they're all pretty important (why else would you have them?), some are more important than others. Yet every time you need to use this tool or that, you have to sift through all those not-so-important programs as well before you get to the icon to launch the app you're really looking for.

Executor is an application launcher that might just help you bring that mess under control. Grab your most important apps, so it'll always be easy to find them when you need them. In addition, it can serve as a souped-up version of the Windows Run command—giving you a textbox into which you can enter commands or keywords that will trigger apps. You might type "photo" to start Photoshop, or "google" to launch your browser and load your favorite search engine.

A free download, Executor is a Windows application.

Download Executor

Browse Mac filesystems with your Windows machine

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of HFSExplorer

If your organization uses machines all running Windows or Mac systems, it's pretty easy to work together. Once you start mixing platforms, though, things can get more interesting. Mac users can use Finder to browse Windows volumes without any real problems, but for the Windows user looking at a Mac-formatted drive, it may not be so smooth.

HFSExplorer is designed specifically to let Windows users dig around in Mac filesystems. It has a GUI, so it doesn't look all that different from Windows Explorer. It works with the older HFS, HFS+ extended, and even HFSX with case sensitive filenames. Mount that networked Mac volume, or even your HFS+ formatted iPod. It also lets you get into Mac formatted .DMG disk image files.

HFSExplorer is primarily a Windows program, although since it is written in Java you could use it on your Mac or Linux machine if necessary.

Download HFSExplorer

Organize files and folders with Folder Axe

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Folder Axe

How much stuff can you keep track of at one time? Personally, once I run out of fingers and toes, things can get kind of dicey. But if you've got a folder on your computer that has dozens or hundreds or more files in it, how do you propose to figure out what you've really got? One way to organize things is to take big piles and break them down into little piles. But where do you start?

Folder Axe, in spite of its rather brutal-sounding name, is a helpful tool that can help you get organized when you're feeling overwhelmed. You can choose to have your files divided up by the numbers—break them down into ten directories, for example—as well as by file size (give me a bunch of 250 MB folders, if you please), or based on their names, file types and extensions. or dates. If you like, it can also then ZIP those files up into archives and add 256-bit encryption as well. You'll get so organized, you may be tempted to go back and just create more files.

Folder Axe is a Windows application. It runs under WinXP and later, and requires version 4 of the .NET Framework.

Download Folder Axe

Free online service lets you edit SVG graphics files

Friday, September 16th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of SVG-edit

In the world of computer graphics, there are basically two different ways to get a picture on your screen: a bitmap file and a vector file. Bitmap files typically come from places like Photoshop or your digital camera, and in those files are included each and every one of the pixels you're going to look at when the picture is displayed on your monitor. Vector images come from tools like Illustrator, and rather than containing a squished-down version of the image, actually contain the instructions necessary for your computer to draw that picture in real time. Though the bitmaps may be easier to work with, the vector images allow more flexibility, especially when it comes to enlarging and reducing the size of the image: rather than getting all broken up and pixelated, they will still show smooth curves and be generally better looking.

SVG-edit is a free service that lets you edit SVG files, a particular format of vector image file, in your browser. Rather than having to shell out the bucks for Illustrator, or go through the hassle of installing Inkscape, all you need is your browser. You can access most of the functionality of this tool by just pointing your browser at their site; in addition, they have several plugins you can add to Firefox and Opera to let you do even more. And since this service is built on HTML5, you don't even need Flash on your system, which will be helpful to folks who run a certain brand of tablet computer.

SVG-edit is a free online service.

Download SVG-edit

Speed up the file copying process

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Copy Handler

If you've got a few files here and want to put copies of them other there, you can issue the "copy" command in a DOS box, or drag-and-drop files in Windows Explorer. If you're dealing with more than a few files, or if you have folders full of some files you want to copy and some that you don't, then your life can get more complicated. That's where a tool like Copy Handler can come in handy.

Copy Handler is a WYSIWYG tool that helps you copy or move files more quickly and efficiently. Specify the files you want to copy by extension, size, date, or file attributes. Set the priority of your copy session, so that your work doesn't come to a screeching halt as you wait for the files to be copied. You can even specify multiple copies for your destination if you like.

Copy Handler is an open source Windows application, and a free download.

Download Copy Handler

Check to see if your website is still up

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of http-ping

If you're responsible for the care and feeding of a website or three, then you know that your two main priorities are creating the site and then making sure that it's accessible to the big wide world out there. If you've only got a single site, you could probably just wander by a couple times a day to make sure that things are happening, but if you've got multiple sites—or you have other responsibilities than just browsing the Web all day—then you could probably use some help.

http-ping is a tool that can help you make sure your sites are up and running. As the name might imply, it's kind of like "pinging" your site, but rather than looking for just the terse ICMP response you'd get from a ping, you'll get the HTTP status code that the server returns for your page, as well as the number of bytes in the response and the round-trip time for your request to get a response. What that all means is that you'll know that your site—or at least the page you pinged—is alive and well and you can get on with your day. And since http-ping is a command-line tool, you can integrate it into scripts and batch files to automate your checking.

http-ping is a Windows app. You can use it on systems running WinXP and later.

Download http-ping

Zip and encrypt files on your Mac

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of iZip

So many files, so little time. As you work away at your computer, you are no doubt generating a lot of new files: documents, images, notes, all kinds of goodies. You can keep cranking them out, but at some point you're going to have to stop and organize them. If you've got a bunch of files that all pertain to the same subject—maybe a new website you're designing, maybe a report you're putting together—it might be nice to have all those files travel together. Whether it's time to share your handiwork with others, or to file your accomplishment away for posterity, there's no substitute for a good archiving tool.

iZip can help bring order to the chaos that is your files. You can create archives in several popular formats—ZIP, RAR, TAR, and even 7ZIP—and of course you can use it to extract files from those archive files as well. For extra security, iZip uses 256-bit AES encryption, so your files stay your business and nobody else's. On top of that, it's integrated with the free file sharing service, so it's easy to share your files with others.

iZip is a Mac application. You need to be running an Intel-powered machine with Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) or above to use iZip.

Download iZip

Classroom seating chart maker

Monday, September 12th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Seating Chart Maker

Teaching is an interesting undertaking. On one hand, as a teacher you have the opportunity to mold the minds of the next generation and get them off on the right foot. On the other hand, you're also janitor, social worker, and traffic cop for all the kids in your class. Lesson plans are important, but so are seating charts. You probably got into teaching for the academics, so maybe you could use a tool that helps take some of the administrative overhead off your shoulders.

Seating Chart Maker is an application that can help you get all your students where they belong. Whether it's a child with vision issues who needs to be in the front of the class, or those two kids who just cannot be allowed to sit next to each other—too much talking or too much fighting—this tool can help you spend less time figuring out the classroom logistics and more time teaching your students what they need to know. And isn't that really why you teach?

Written by the spouse of a teacher, Seating Chart Maker runs under Windows and is a free download.

Download Seating Chart Maker

Why did that application crash?

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of WinCrashReport

It's a fact of life: applications crash. Whether it's an undiscovered bug in a program, or a bad set of data, there will come a time when your work will come to an abrupt halt and you will be presented with a message box bearing some kind of indecipherable error message telling you that it's game over. Have you ever though that it might be handy to have a little more information than that to work with?

WinCrashReport wants to help you figure it all out. Rather than merely telling you that your application "has encountered a problem and needs to close", it lets you see what really happened in there. If you're not a total egghead, you may not be able to make heads or tails out of the information, but you do have the ability to save it off to a report to examine at your leisure, and maybe, just maybe, you'll see something that gives you a clue as to what went wrong. Personally, I'm guessing it was mischievous little elves in there.

WinCrashReport is a Windows application. It works with Win2000 and later; 32-bit only.

Download WinCrashReport