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DropIt: file automation

imageFound a very cool opensource automation program. DropIt can be set up to monitor different directories on your file system. You then set up rules for different filetypes, such as moving MP3 files to a separate directory or compressing particular files into a ZIP. Then the program can automatically perform those actions periodically on files appearing in the monitored folder. This means you can just drop all your stuff into one folder and have the program automatically sort, compress, delete, move etc in the background. Also has a floating "drop icon" that you can quickly drag files to. Saves a bit of time and is completely free. x86 and x64 versions available.

DropIt

Everything and Locate32: high–speed file finders

imageI’ve been using a program called Locate32 both at work and home for years now. At home I have sixteen internal and external drive partitions with something like a trillion files scattered over a billion directories (rough estimate, mind you), and at work we USED to have multiple network drives that I had to search through many times a day to find a particular file. Where did I save that JPG or PDF? Which folder is Martin Galway’s “Parallax” song in again? That sort of thing.

The way Locate32 works is by periodically doing a full-drive directory scan of all of your local and network drives. You can then open its window and just start typing a partial filename (or wildcard).. it will immediately show you a list of all the files that match or contain that name in any folder on any drive that it has scanned. I can start typing “parall” and will in the blink of an eye see a list of about 12 files – parallax.sid, MartinGalway-Parallax.mp3 and so on. Incredibly useful for anyone – not just people like me who are totally unorganized but also anyone that regularly uses their computer for anything and just wants to save file finding time.

Everything is very similar in terms of primary functionality. It doesn’t have as many features, but it is able to perform something that Locate32 cannot. It uses the MFT (Master File Table) of NTFS to look up its files. Meaning it’s lightning fast with its initial scan, and then as long as you keep it running, no matter what you or your machine do, Everything instantly knows exactly which filenames are changing and which new files are appearing on your hard drive. Plus, it uses very little resources, and it also appears to have a more intelligent result sorting mechanism, but that could just be personal choice.

Everything cannot search network drives, or any non-NTFS drives, and it cannot search for text within files. Locate32 can do all of these things, so in fact Everything could be considered a “lite” version of Locate32. But it is faster with its initial drive scan and it does use less system resources. I have 12Gb of RAM so it doesn’t bother me too much anymore but still, I prefer Everything these days since I don’t need to search network drives anymore – all I look for are my locally-stored files. Got ‘em both installed so I can always load up Locate32 if I want the extended features.

Both of these programs are free and fully functional.

Everything | Locate32

Grab the latest alpha build (at time of writing) of Everything here.

SpaceSniffer: freeware disk usage utility

imageMerry Christmas everyone! I  had a fairly unconventional Christmas, spending it with my wife and kid in San Diego (Legoland!) Six hour drive from here, made tolerable by the fact that we have a pretty spacious, comfortable sedan. But I digress. Got back home and did a bit of catching up on the software review sites, and found a program called SpaceSniffer which, amazingly, has within a single hour ousted SpaceMonger as my favourite disk usage analysis tool. I say “amazingly” because I’ve been using SpaceMonger for maybe ten years or more! SpaceSniffer is very similar in functionality and I guess there’s not much separating the two, but the latter does have a bit more configurability in terms of look and feel without appearing to sacrifice speed. Also, while viewing a report of my C: drive, certain directories periodically “flickered” on the screen. I suspect that post-analysis, the program monitors the just-scanned drive and does real-time updates on its display as the contents of directories change. If so, super cool! Lastly, it has an MDI interface, which SpaceMonger does not; this allows you to open more than one window within the program showing the contents of different drives. I’m not sure how often I would use this, but if you need to you can.

SpaceSniffer uses something called “treemaps”, which is a method of visually displaying filesize using boxes of varying sizes. A readout looks a bit messy the first time you see it, but it’s really the perfect way to get an instant idea not only of the largest files on your drive, but also the directories which contain the largest (and most amount of) files. For techies, and simply those people who are anal about space usage and organization, it’s indispensible. I’ve used SpaceMonger many times at work to get a handle on drive usage on one of our big networked file servers so I can hammer people who have been storing backups and other useless crap on it “accidentally”. The program is freeware, which makes it that much more awesome.

SpaceSniffer

Folder Menu: quickly jump to commonly-used system folders

imageLiking Folder Menu a lot. It’s a small, configurable app which allows you to switch to commonly-used folders in various apps. You can pop a list of folders up with the middle mouse button (for example) in a standard Windows file selection dialog. Choosing a folder will immediately change the file selector to show the contents of that folder. You can also ask the program to monitor other apps (eg Windows Explorer), or even the desktop. Using the latter functionality, you can choose a folder from the popup and you’ll instantly get an Explorer instance opening to that location. In practice it’s extremely handy for plenty of tasks which require you to browse different locations on your hard drive – saving files from a website, editing documents and plenty more.

The program also allows you to activate certain other functionality from within its popup. A nice touch, which unfortunately increases the time-to-appear by a second or so, is a "drive" menu which will show you the current free space on all your drives. You can also quickly perform tasks such as viewing recent files, restarting your PC, running miscellaneous programs or even visiting a particular website.

Completely free, x86 and x64 versions available. It has now replaced DirectFolders permanently on my system.

Folder Menu

TinyResMeter v0.98.0.2 download

Download here: TinyResMeter v0.98.0.2 (499)

Main page for the software is here.

Rejetto HTTPFileServer: share your files via HTTP

imageI’ve been a fan of Filezilla Server for a very long time. It’s a fast, free FTP server app that’s solid as a rock (as in, it has never EVER crashed on me) and supports some nice things like mode-Z compression, virtual directories and even secure transfer protocols. A while ago I heard about HTTPFileServer (HFS) but never actually thought to download and take a look at it – until today. And boy, am I impressed! You KNOW that doesn’t happen often.

Basically this (freeware!) program is a single executable which opens up a server on your machine that allows connections and transfers via the HTTP protocol. That means anyone that you want to share files with doesn’t need an FTP client, just a browser. Assuming you configure everything correctly on your LAN and router, you can offer up directories via HFS. People can use eg Firefox to look through your directories, download individual files, tag entire folders to be .TAR-red and downloaded en masse, and even upload files to your server. Full permissions can be set on a per-directory basis. You can add folders as “real” or as “virtual”. The amount of configuration options is vast, probably another reason I like it so much. Logging to screen, file. Dynamic DNS (CJB, No-IP, DynDNS) support built-in. Bandwidth monitor. Descript.ion support. Process Explorer shows this thing idling with 25Mb RAM usage – that’s nice and low. It even offers the ability to customize the HTTP template so that the end-user can get a different look and feel – the bizarrely-named Thunderchicken of Glory skin even allows MP3 preview directly within the browser. And apparently it works fine running in Wine under Linux. (Like most of us care, eh?)

This program is obviously not for everyone, but if you need to share a set of files or folders on your machine and offer them to friends with a minimum of fuss on their end, this is definitely an awesome option. It’s even great with just sharing files on your local network. Is it better than Filezilla Server? From what I’ve seen of it, I’d say it’s on par. And that’s DEFINITELY high praise from me.

Rejetto HTTPFileServer

PicPick: freeware screen capture tool with annotation support

image So up until this point I had been despairing of a good free screen capture tool. There are several of them out there (including the infamous WinSnap – was free and then sadly went shareware), but what I really need is the ability to annotate your screen captures. When putting together technical how-to documents with screenshots, you want to be able to circle the button that should be clicked, or draw an arrow to a particular object of interest in the capture. Or add a border, or dropshadow, etc etc. Now, you can put your capture into Microsoft Word and then use its drawing tools. But that’s not great for quickly emailing something to someone. At work, we have licenses for SnagIt, but what about the poor masses out there? Best thing I’d see to this point was FastStone Capture, but it’s shareware and my thirty days of joy and delight with it were up all too quickly.

Then I discovered PicPick. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in this type of tool. The amount of features it has blew me away when I first saw it – not only do you have the regular screencapture tools (including rectangular area, window [with vertical scroll support, so you can for example capture tall webpages etc], freehand area, full screen) and border/dropshadow frame effects, but you also have fantastic extended features such as “whiteboard” mode – allows you to draw on the screen so that you can make your presentations or tech sessions a lot cooler, a “protractor” mode so you can measure the angle of something on the screen, no idea why you’d want to do that but hey, it’s a free program! – and even a color picker and palette mode which helps when you’re coding eg. CSS and want to grab a color from the screen to match to a border or font or whatever. I was going to make a criticism about how it has those horrible Vista-style ribbon menus, but then I noticed that there’s an option in there to turn them off completely and go to classic menu mode. Hooray!

The only problem I’ve found with it that kept it from getting one of my esteemed “hot download awards” is the fact that the autoscrolling window capture mode doesn’t appear to work with Firefox. Works with Chrome, works with IE. Hopefully it’ll get fixed though, and it’s pretty far from a dealbreaker for me anyway.

Get this program. It’s terrific.

PicPick

Edit 20100725: Now warrants a Hot Download award!

UK’s Kalender; freeware calendar/to-do program

image

Long-time fans of me (pauses.. buffs fingernails on shirt..) will know that I’ve always been a fan of WinDates, a shareware network-enabled calendar program which I used for a long time, on and off. Unfortunately the author of WinDates got a job working for a place that makes online calendars, which meant that continuing to develop his own program constituted a conflict of interest. He quit writing WinDates and a fantastic program winked out of existence, despite an email I wrote to him a year or two ago asking him to opensource the program since he no longer maintained it.

Now that I’ve wasted a paragraph on barely-relevant stuff, here’s the deal with UK’s Kalender (and it’s got nothing to do with the United Kingdom, although you could definitely be forgiven for thinking that at first, and no, I’m sure that the author knows how “calendar” is spelled in English *8-). It’s BETTER than WinDates, by leaps and bounds, and it’s completely free. I mean sure, the author asks for donations (and I’d say this one is definitely worth it), but that’s a heck of a lot better than getting 30 days to figure out whether to drop US$20 on a calendar tool or on clothes for your kid when you’re in the middle of a recession. But onto the features (click the link for more informative information about these features):

Automatic saving | Unlimited Undo and Redo | Minimize to the system tray | Network support | Repeating events | Forewarn time and snooze function | Multi day events | Event categories and templates | Acoustic reminders | Event driven program execution and document opening | Marking and hiding events | Four event views | Tooltips for events and todos | Alarms can be deactivated | Highly configurable display for events and todos | Configurable tray icon | Search and filter functions | Clipboard support | Export to HTML- and CSV-format | Holidays

The program appears to be tightly-coded (not sluggish/bloated-feeling, and doesn’t force you to use godawful skins, such as Rainlendar) and has a stack of very useful features. There is only one major omission preventing me from using it, and I have emailed the author in the hope that he will be able to find the time to include the feature. UK’s Kalendar does not support .ics format. Quoting the author from the “what it doesn’t do” page: “[…] has a proprietary file format. Neither does it understand the file format of other applications nor does it support the export of foreign calendar formats.” This is a big issue AFAIC. If it doesn’t support other calendar formats, you may not be able to export your existing data and migrate to this program, nor might you be able to easily migrate from it at some point in the future. Another missing feature which completely prevents me from using it is the fact that it cannot sync to an online calendar, such as Google Calendar, and it doesn’t support multiple simultaneously-open event files. My current calendar program, Mozilla Sunbird, allows syncing to Google Calendar with an add-on, and has multi-calendar support built-in. ICS and online calendar support would have given this program a definite Hot Download award since not only would you then be able to subscribe to your own calendar online but also hundreds of free online calendars. As it stands, it’s still an excellent calendar tool, both standalone and in case you need to share events with others on your local network. And like me, if you want ICS support, go ahead and email the author!

UK’S Kalender

TinyResMeter: system information tool

image I’ve been using this tiny, well-written and very comprehensive tool for a while now. While v0.96a is freely downloadable from their website, v0.97 for some annoying reason has been restricted for distribution only to users who subscribe to their mailing list. Free is free and I’m not thrilled with having to drop my email address off on a mailing list that will prove completely useless to me only to secure a copy of the program. So.. enjoy downloading the bizarrely exclusive TinyResMeter v0.97 right here.

TinyResMeter v0.97 build 1 (675)

NotePad++: excellent opensource text editor

NotePad++

There are two general kinds of editor that people use when writing. The first is a word processor, the other is a text processor. While word processors are great for organizing books or other documentation with rich text formatting, text editors have an alternate featureset for text manipulation and are typically geared towards programmers. Most text editors are far smaller than commercial word processing tools but have a surprisingly large range of features.

NotePad++ receives a Hot Download Award as one of the best text editors I’ve used recently. Previously, my favourite was NotePad2. Notepad2 is extremely small (loads in a flash) and has some very nice options if you’re just interested in editing non-rich-text files – readmes and the like. NotePad++, on the other hand, adds a huge range of features including syntax highlighting, tabbed document interface, macros, and plugins which allow a vast amount of text transformations and other functions. This editor does almost everything you could possibly want for straightforward programming or related work.

Notepad++ Homepage

Honourable mentions: NotePad2, of course. PSPad is another free editor with a giant range of features, but takes a second or two longer to load. In my world that counts as second best. Finally, for the absolute ULTIMATE text editor (shareware but worth it if you have the $) is UltraEdit. This latter editor really does do everything under the sun.

Avoid: TextPad. So many people use this tool, it boggles my mind. It’s shareware and far below par when compared to NotePad++. The default hotkey mappings don’t make any sense either. Don’t even bother.