Archive for the ‘Useful Software’ Category

If you’re like me, you’ve already grown a little irked at how Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger)’s Spotlight search feature works. Of course, when it does, it’s pretty cool, but I always found it quite odd that you can’t do an exact search, and that it’s searching as you’re typing, making it a little hard to type fully what you’re looking for. It begins searching right away, so the more you type, the more you feel like you’re on one of those old computers with not enough memory to run Word.

Anyways, I’m not the only one that thinks this way, and a guy by the alias of ‘mattneub’ has created a new search tool that uses the same Spotlight engine: NotLight

I used it a few times, and I like it! Precise searches – you can search by extension name or by content and you can save your searches as well. And it’s free! You should really save some time and start using it today!

Download NotLight


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Newer is not always better. Actually in the software world, sometimes, newer is just more bloated. You didn’t need those extra 5 features, because you don’t use them anyways!

Then you need to head on over to www.oldversion.com

They have older versions of popular (or formerly popular) software like Winamp. Do you remember version 2.95, that nice, small, stable version before the dreaded 3.x release? Yes, they have it.

Try it out! Older indeed might be better.

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Have you ever wished that you could just record what you’re doing on the screen to share with others as a video for tutorial purposes?

Well, you can with Camstudio. It’s yet another open-source software. I find myself using this here and there so that others can see how to do something with their computer. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth exponentially as much!

One word of warning – this saves to AVI format, and it can run kind of big. Try the ‘convert to flash’ mode, as flash videos are compressed and takes signifcantly less memory.

About a 1 min, 15 second video translated to 25mbs as AVI, and 5.5mbs as a flash video. Please note that to view flash video files, you need Adobe’s flash plug-in.

They are both free. Note that Camstudio currently only has a Windows version (no Mac OS X). I haven’t been able to find an equivalent one for OS X, sorry Mac folks.

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I didn’t know too much about mind mapping until I read this book about photoreading. Photoreading – I won’t go into that today, because I’m not sure if it works. Anyways, then a friend told me about mindmapping software. Basically mind mapping is just creating bubbles that represent ideas and then linking them together with other ideas, so that you can visually see the relationships between them. It looks something like this:

Mind Mapping

I have tried it once myself for a presentation, and believe it or not, it really did help me. It’s more useful than an outline b/c it’s not linear.

The problem is that the mind mapping software is usually pretty expensive. Mind Manager comes to mind.

But there is a free, open-source one out there you might want to try, called FreeMind (available for windows, Mac and Linux). Give it a whirl for yourself. You might find yourself being a clearer thinking and presenter.

Check out FreeMind

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If you’re still using the Internet Explorer that came with your PC, you’re so outdated! 🙂

Actually, one of the things that annoys me most on the internet is the overabundance of ads that try to fill my brain. Is there a free solution for this? Yes! Use the Firefox browser, and a plugin that goes with it, called “adblock plus”

You can get them both free here:

1. Download Firefox

2. Download AdBlock Plus

If you’re completely new to firefox, don’t worry, functionally, it’s almost the same. Except with firefox, you can do a few more nifty things like have tabbed multiple browsers open, and also change the skin of the browser. If you use it for nothing else, just use it for AdBlock Plus. Then compare using IE versus Firefox on sites like cnn.com. You’ll notice some pictures missing at times, but no worries! You were just saved from yet another ad begging for your money and attention!

It’s not perfect (sometimes it misses some, but rarely), and it might make the webpage load a slight bit slower, but it’s all worth it for me.

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Capturing Screenshots on your PC 

Sorry I’ve been out awhile… I got back, but I just switched to a new job, so I can’t really post anymore during work.  I have more work to do, and it’s more interesting.

Anyways, today’s basic tech tip is that you can capture screenshots and either copy it into Word, or save it as a file and email it.

I know that I’ve had times where I wanted to show someone an error message or wanted to create some tutorial, and I wondered how I could do this.

With my old workplace, we had bought licenses for Hypersnap and SnagIt.  Those both worked good.  However, I never had to do it really at home on my PC, so I never needed it.

However, I did a quick google search and found a really good donationware that does just as well.  (donationware is free, but they ask for a donation).

It’s called MWSnap:

You can capture a screenshot into different formats, such as bitmap or jpeg (I prefer jpeg).  You can also create a custom square area you want to draw on the desktop to capture.  You can save it to your clipboard to say paste into Word, or you can save it as a file to email.

Try it out, and if you like it, make a donation!

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If you’re just a basic user, and don’t use fancy features and formatting in Word, you might be a good candidate to use OpenOffice or AbiWord.

OpenOffice is open-source software (bunch of guys getting together via the internet and developing free software out of goodwill). It comes with the following applications:

-Writer (like Word)
-Calc (like Excel)
-Impress (like Powerpoint)
-Draw (a drawing program)
-Base (a database program)

I’ve only personally tried Writer, and I found it to be quite good. It’s matured over the years, and it’s pretty stable now. You can get more info about it and download it yourself:

Another good, mature open-source Word like application is AbiWord. It only has a word processing program (unlike the full suite given in OpenOffice).

It looks almost exactly like Word, and it seems quite good as well.  If you are planning to use a document switching from Word to OpenOffice or AbiWord, I recommend that you watch out for formatting changes, as they might not talk to each other well.

But like I said, if you’re just writing normal letters or essays and such, you will be ok with these free alternative solutions.

They are available for Window, Mac or Linux.

Save yourself some cash and go treat your family/friends out to dinner!

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