Check Your Carbon Footprint

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

Paper Airplanes

October 18th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Origami-Kids

One of the time-honored ways to waste time—I mean to show your creativity—is to fold paper airplanes. Whether you're not paying attention in class, not paying attention in a meeting, or hopefully just killing a few hours on a rainy Saturday afternoon, paper planes can fill the bill. Unfortunately, many of us only know one or two designs, and that can get old pretty quick. That's where it's handy to visit a site like Origami-Kids.

Origami-Kids has instructions for folding a whole bunch of different paper airplanes. Choose models that glide slowly or fly fast, or even "vortex" models—paper helicopters! And as with other origami projects, you don't need tape, glue, or scissors to complete any of the projects—just paper and the ability to fold it. And if you get tired of airplanes, they've also got a variety of boats and other paper folding projects to keep you busy and entertained.

Origami-Kids is a free online service. All you need is a web browser and some time on your hands.

Download Origami-Kids

Free Halloween Printables

October 17th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Halloween Printables

Halloween is almost upon us. This annual Fall festival is fun for young and old alike, as we dress up in fancy (or scary) costumes, bob for apples, and eat too much candy. If you're afraid of a sugar overdose, you're probably looking for other ways to enjoy this holiday.

Halloween Printables is a sugar-free way to celebrate the spookiest season of all. You can choose Halloween greeting cards to pass along your ghostly good wishes, as well as Halloween coloring pages (keep the little ones occupied as you check through their Trick or Treat candy), Halloween maze and word search puzzles, and even some scary signs (Black Cat Crossing!).

Halloween Printables are free to download. They're all available as PDF files, so you'll need a copy of Adobe Reader to print them. In addition, the Halloween greeting cards can also be downloaded as Word DOC files, so you can customize them with your own frightening greetings.

Download Halloween Printables

Address Book Tool

October 16th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Addressido

Back in the day, if you were trying to keep track of contact information for friends and family at home, you probably had some fancy address book where you wrote all that info down. Everything was fine until Cousin George moved and you had to go back and scribble some edits into his address. At work, you had a Rolodex and just kept sticking new cards into it. Neither of these was a very good solution, and they certainly weren't too portable. Fast forward to today.

Addressido is the electronic equivalent of the address book and Rolodex all in one. It's easy to add, edit, and remove entries, and you'll never have to worry about messy scratch-outs when you change an address. All your records will also be in order, rather than having the last entry always be at the bottom of the list. Organize your contact info into categories and add notes to keep track of what you've said to whom and when. In addition, Addressido fits easily on a USB thumb drive, so you can always carry your information with you.

Addressido is a free Windows application.

Download Addressido

WAVE – Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool

October 15th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of WAVE

If you're charged with the care and feeding of a website, presumably you want to make your visitors' user experience the best it can possibly be. You use good design techniques and test your code to make sure that it behaves the way you want it to, and is totally accessible. As a double check, to make sure everything's behaving itself, you probably run your site past some type of evaluation tool.

WAVE–the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool–is one place you might check out. Rather than just spitting back a complicated and hard-to-read report on what it finds, this tool displays the page you're checking and in that context adds little icons and comments to show you not only what problems it has found, but also where those problems are in your page. Rather than looking at some obscure error or warning message that pertains to Line 603 on your page (Line 603 of what: the header? the footer? the sidebar?), you'll see the little red box telling you that you don't have ALT text associated with a particular image on your blog. Seeing troubles in context will make it much easier to find and fix them in your code. And if you're still building your page, you can also upload individual files, or even paste code into their form and have it checked on the fly.

WAVE is a free service. You'll need a web browser and a page that you want to check, but really nothing else.

Download WAVE

Closing all windows quits app

October 14th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of RedQuits

Mom taught you that when you were done playing that you should put your toys away. That was good advice for the floor of the playroom when you were a kid, and it's still good advice now, even when a lot of your "toys" are programs running on your computer. You've been busy editing multiple documents with your favorite word processor and decide you're done, so you close them all. But does that mean that the application itself is closed? Depends; sometimes closing that last application window will kill the app itself, but often, it just sits there, still running–and taking up memory and other resources–but it's not benefitting you at all. Mom probably wouldn't be happy.

RedQuits is a tool that can help make sure that doesn't happen to you. Once it's up and running, closing that last application window automatically closes the application itself. No more "orphan" apps running and taking up resources when you think you've put all your toys away.

RedQuits is a free download. You can use it on your Mac (OS X 10.6 and later).

Download RedQuits

OpenWith Enhanced

October 13th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of OpenWith Enhanced

In the World of Windows, most files of a particular type have an application that's associated with them. If you want to open a particular DOC document in Word, you can fire up Microsoft Office, browse to where your document lives, choose it, and you're off to the races. Or you can find the file in Windows Explorer, double-click on it, and automagically Word starts up and loads your DOC.

Other times, things may not be quite so clear-cut. Say you've got a CSV file–a text file with comma-separated values–that was created in Excel. If you double click on that file, will it open in Excel, or will it open in Notepad or some other text editor? That's where the Open With option in the right click "context" menu comes in. Windows lets you dig through a list of apps to decide which one you want to use to open your file. Even then, though, it's generally a fairly limited list.

OpenWith Enhanced is a tool that lets you open files the way you really want to. Sure, you can pick the application you want to use, but what if you're not sure which app really belongs to that file? Instead of just giving you a suggested list of apps that already live on your system, OpenWith Enhanced also relies on a database of what other users have successfully opened that type of file with in the past. And as an added bonus, if you don't currently have a particular application installed on your machine, choosing it will take you online to a place where you can obtain that missing app.

A free download, OpenWith Enhanced is a Windows app and runs under both 32- and 64-bit versions.

Download OpenWith Enhanced

Define different speeds for mouse and touchpad

October 12th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of AutoSensitivity

When you're interacting with a computer via a keyboard, things are pretty simple. You press a key, a character appears on the screen, end of story. But once you enter the World of the GUI, things get much more complicated. In the beginning was the mouse. You dragged it around the desktop, you clicked a button, and everything was fine. Sure, you added additional buttons, maybe a scrollwheel, but it was pretty much the same deal. Then came laptops, and with laptops came touchpads. While they helped you move a pointer around the screen, there is a real difference between the behavior of those two devices, not the least of which being the whole desktop for a mouse versus a couple of square inches for the touchpad.

AutoSensitivity lets you change the performance characteristics of your touchpad, independent of the behavior of a mouse you may have attached to the same computer. Set your mouse to be more–or less–responsive than your touchpad, and vice versa. Which profile gets used depends on whether your mouse is plugged in or not at any particular moment. No more big wild sweeps of the finger across the touchpad to get things going, as well as having to move the mouse only a fraction of an inch to get the cursor to rocket across the display.

AutoSensitivity is a free download. It's a Windows application, and should run just fine under XP and later. You'll also need to have at least version 3.5 of the .NET Framework installed.

Download AutoSensitivity

Take control of your finances with Checkbook

October 11th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of Checkbook

Spending money is generally fun; dealing with the paperwork afterwards somewhat less so. Unless you have unlimited funds, or really enjoy living life on the edge, at some point you're going to have to balance your checkbook to make sure that you and the bank agree on how much money you've got for your next buying excursion–or to pay the rent, the power bill, and all that. You dutifully sit down with your check register, the bank statement, all those canceled checks, and the calculator, and begin the long slog toward reconciliation.

Checkbook is a tool that might just take the hassle out of balancing your checkbook. Its math is always correct, so entering checks and deposits throughout the month will keep you up to date. It's smart enough to recognize transactions that it's seen before, so it can autocomplete entries, making recurring transactions easier to enter. When it comes to the end of the month, ticking a checkbox for items that appear on your bank statement is a pretty easy way to go. As you work your way through the transactions, you see the steadily decreasing difference between your register and the statement, and when it drops to zero, you're done.

Checkbook is a free download. It's a Mac application, and runs on Intel Macs using Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or later.

Download Checkbook

Online bar graph generator

October 10th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of BARCHART Generator

Sometimes the best way to explain a bunch of data is with a painstakingly complex narrative, interpreting all the rich complexity of your data. Other times, it's better to just draw a picture. That's why they invented charts and graphs.

BARCHART Generator is a tool that will take your complex data and turn it into an easy-to-understand bar graph. It's your data, so you get to define the parameters of your chart: width and height, a name for your chart, labels along both horizontal and vertical axes, colors, and all that. Enter your data as a semicolon-delimited list, press the button, and you get to see your data as a bar chart. Add multiple series of data and fiddle with the options 'til your chart is just right. Then you can download your creation as a PNG image and use it in your report, blog, or wherever else you need that bar graph.

A free service, BARCHART Generator only requires that you have a web browser and some data that you want to represent graphically.

Download BARCHART Generator