Archive for October, 2011

What Language is That

Friday, October 28th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Polyglot 3000

Has this happened to you? You're walking down the street, minding your own business, when all of a sudden somebody jumps out of a dark alley and shoves a sheet of paper into your hand. You look down and see there's text on it, but you don't recognize the language it's written in. How are you going to figure it out?

Polyglot 3000 is a tool that can take a chunk of text—a page, a paragraph, or maybe even just a single word or two—and tell you which language it's written in. It can recognize nearly 500 different languages and dialects, so your text is probably on their list. European languages, Asian languages, African languages, Native American languages, and more—they're all there; even Esperanto, if you're so inclined (sorry, no Klingon). To speed things up, you can set this app to check only for "popular" languages, or do dive deep and check against the whole database.

Polyglot 3000 is a free download for Windows. And no, I've never had anybody shove a piece of paper like that into my hand either.

Download Polyglot 3000

Check for Legibility on Your Website

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of ColorSelector

Just because you can do something doesn't necessarily mean that you should do that thing. You could put white text on a white background on your website, but that doesn't mean that it's good for your visitors. If you have a story to tell, it's important that your visitors can actually read it, so you need to choose wisely in picking colors for the text and backgrounds on your website or in your desktop app. You could stick to safe but boring combinations of black and white, or you could guess what might be a good set of contrasting colors, or you could check out ColorSelector.

ColorSelector helps you to make sure that the text on your page can be read by your visitors. It tests your combinations not only for light and dark contrasts, but also keeps in mind color combinations that could get in the way of visitors with various types of color blindness. Enter color values directly as decimal- or hex values, use the built-in palettes, or the eyedropper tool can grab colors off the screen. Now everybody can see what you're talking about.

You can download ColorSelector for free. It's available for both Mac and Windows systems.

Download ColorSelector

CD Recovery Tool

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of CD Recovery Toolbox

While a diamond may be forever, your optical media are not. Your CDs and DVDs may seem permanent, but after just a few short years they can start to lose data integrity, whether because of surface scratches, problems with the dyes used in manufacturing, or other troubles. If you've got important data on there, you want to be able to get it back, so you need a tool that can handle the job.

CD Recovery Toolbox is designed to help you with that task. Feed it a bad disk and it will do its best to recover the maximum amount of data possible. After it's scanned your disk, it will tell you which files are recoverable, and make sure you've got room on your hard drive to bring those files over. And even with files that aren't totally recoverable, it works to grab the maximum amount of data possible—and it's better to have some of something than all of nothing.

A free download, CD Recovery Toolbox is a Windows application. It will run under Windows 98/NT and later versions.

Download CD Recovery Toolbox

IDE for Web Development

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Aptana Studio

When you're putting together a complicated presentation, you use a tool like PowerPoint. Need to present complex financial data? Excel is probably your go-to tool. But what about building a website? Since the underlying code is just plain old unformatted text, often the weapon of choice is just a text editor like Notepad or TextEdit. If that seems like a lot of pressure to put on a tool like that, maybe you could check out Aptana Studio.

While Aptana Studio generates that text-only output that you need to build your site or online app, it is itself a full-featured IDE (integrated development environment) that features helps like syntax coloring, JavaScript debugging, and a live preview feature that lets you see what your completed page will look like without having to upload it to the server. There's a DOM outline view that lets you jump between nodes, making it much easier to navigate through pages of complex code to get to the next spot you need to tweak.

Aptana Studio is a free download. It's available for Linux, Mac, and Windows systems.

Download Aptana Studio

Server-based To Do List

Monday, October 24th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of myTinyTodo

Life is complicated, to be sure. Keeping track of what you've got to do can be quite a job, and if you're collaborating with others, that complexity can grow exponentially. Setting up complex collaboration tools can take a lot of time and effort, to say nothing of expense, making you wonder if it's all worth it.

myTinyTodo is a tool you can use to share scheduling information. You set it up on your web server and hook it to a database back end, and you're off to the races. You can enter and edit tasks, add notes and tags, and even assign due dates and priorities to them. And since you can keep track of multiple to-do lists, each project can have its own list to work with. Add passwords to keep your data secure and you can get going. Now everybody's reading off the same page, and that's got to help make everybody more productive.

myTinyTodo is a free download. Your server needs to be running PHP 5.2+ and either MySQL or SQLite.

Download myTinyTodo

Combine Individual Images into PDF Files

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Swift PDF

Sharing images can be complicated. One image may be fine, but if you've got a pile of pictures, you don't necessarily want to have to attach half a dozen PNG files to an email or upload a stack of JPGs to a server somewhere. One way to avoid all that is to combine your images into a PDF file. Everybody's got Adobe Reader or some other PDF reader app, and it's always going to be easier to deal with one PDF file that a dozen individual image files.

Swift PDF takes your individual image files and combines them into a single PDF document. Drag and drop your images into this tool, and then drag them around to re-order them in your doc. You can choose margins and layout for your document, including the size and orientation of the paper. In addition, you can customize margins for individual images, and decide to stretch images to fill a space. Add meta info—title, subject, author, keywords—and you're good to go.

Swift PDF is a free download. It's a Windows application and runs under Windows 95 / WinNT and later.

Download Swift PDF

Keep Track of Stuff People Have Borrowed

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of yLend

Unless you're a total troll, you do have occasion to interact with other people. While some relationships are totally functional—you have to talk with the IT guy if you want your machine to connect with the network—there are others that go beyond that into the personal realm. Once you take it into friendship, you know that there's going to be lending and borrowing of stuff. You just read that new novel and can't help but talk about it with your friends. Or maybe you just grabbed the latest DVD release. No matter what it is, somebody's going to want to borrow it. But whether it's a book or our hedge clippers, you probably want to get it back—or at least remember where they've gone the next time you want to work in the garden.

yLend is a tool that makes it easy to keep track of who you've lent your stuff to. When you decide to trust your buddy with that book or disc, it's easy to enter the date, name, and item name. Add notes to help you remember exactly which things you've lent, and you've got a permanent record of your generosity. When they return your item, just go in and delete the record. Pretty simple

yLend is a Windows application and runs on both 32- and 64-bit systems.

Download yLend

Police Sketch Artist

Friday, October 21st, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Identikit

If you're a fan of the police drama on television, you may marvel as the ability of the detectives to solve their cases by the final commercial. Or you may sit there scratching you head wondering "why didn't they pick up on THAT clue?". One of the resources they rely on is the police sketch artist. Given just a few pieces of information, these forensic artists put together a drawing of the suspect, leading to their ultimate capture and arrest. So how would you like to give it a try, but without all that pesky training and such?

Identikit is an app that lets you put together drawings of faces similarly to how those artists do it. Working with nose, eyes, eyebrows, and mouth, you can change the shape of the face, move items relative to each other, and even add hair. Add your own elements if you like. And at the end, you'll have your sketch. While it may not be enough to put the bad guys away, you'll at least have a greater appreciation for the work those artists, and their real-life counterparts, do.

Identikit is a free download. It's a Java app, so should be able to run on any system with the appropriate Java runtime.

Download Identikit

Lock Your Keyboard and Mouse

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Kid-Key-Lock

If you've got a computer that you don't have to share with your kids, then you may not be interested in Kid-Key-Lock. After all, you don't have to worry about them trashing that important report you're working on for the office, or killing your budget spreadsheet. If that's not you, however, read on.

Kid-Key-Lock is a tool that lets you configure how your mouse and keyboard behave. Choose to activate, or deactivate, the left, right, and center mouse button, as well as the scroll wheel and even the ability to double click. You can lock down "regular" keys (alphanumeric and symbols) as well as additional keys (function keys, arrows, Home, End), as well as even various shortcut keys (Windows key combinations, [Alt]+[Tab], and the like). Your little Picasso can draw away without putting the rest of your life at risk. Since it lives in the System Tray, it's easy to bring up Kid-Key-Lock to tweak your settings.

Kid-Key-Lock is a free download. It's a Windows app and should be right at home on systems running WinNT/2000 or later.

Download Kid-Key-Lock

Check Your Carbon Footprint

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Carbon Footprint

How big an impact do you make on the environment? Lots of communities encourage recycling, and there are many popular cars that get great gas mileage or are hybrids. But when all is said and done, there are still probably improvements that you could make to lessen the effect you have on Mother Earth. Carbon Footprint is a tool that could help you gain insight into how well you're doing.

By answering questions about how you live your life—miles you drive in a year, the average mileage of your car, energy consumption at home, even how much locally-produced food you consume—this tool helps you to calculate just how many tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) you generate in a year. Once you see how much you're responsible for, and which activities in your life generate it, you're better armed to try to reduce your impact on the planet, which will save you money as well as helping the environment.

Carbon Footprint is a free download. It's a Windows application.

Download Carbon Footprint