Sunday, November 14, 2004

Top 10 Cool Computing Utilities

One of the nice things about being in the consulting world fulltime is that your hardware/software needs to be up to date. I mention this because I have transitioned from the HP to a Dell Latitude D800.

With changes in hardware like this I tend to evaluate what software to install to keep the machine running lean and myself productive. Here are my favorite Top 10 computing utilities.

1. Microsoft XML Notepad - If you are looking for a great low cost solution for editing .xml files and keeping them well structured then look no further.

2. CutePDF Writer - Create PDF documents on the fly - for Free! If you just need to create a PDF, but do not need all the bells and whistles this is a great utility. This works for all windows based programs (CAD, Word, Excel, etc…)

3. JAlbum - I mentioned this program before and still find it a great asset in my graphic work. From photoalbums to FTP publishing and more.

4. NewzCrawler $24.95 - As you may know from my past blogging I love RSS feeds and this is a great way to access and organize them.

I tend to think of Screen and Web camera capture software as similar so here are two I use:
5a. Webcam32 $39.95 - This is a nice utility that not only can be used for still webcam images but also video push/pull via website or ftp. There is quite a bit that this software can do beyond that as well.

5b. ScreenCam - This is what I use to show screen captures on the blog window periodically of what I am working on. It has a great ftp upload feature and can be set on a timer and more.

6. Network Stumbler - If you work with wi-fi a good detector is invaluable. This is also great for sys admins to help find rogue networks. I typically fire this up to find available networks to websurf while traveling.

7. Skype - You have heard of VOIP, here is a name that is catching on. Basically it works like this if you want to call other people on their computers or phones you can use Skype to make calls all over the world (I recently had a conversation with a friend in the UK from the states free of charge).

Here are two invaluable programs from Techsmith . Great software at a great price:
8a. SnagIt - Capture screen images, text and printer output from your Windows PC. If you have used the windows print screen to get screen captures wait until you try this, I use this for documentation and/or just showing someone how a feature works

8b. Camtasia - Great for quickly creating professional-looking videos of your PC desktop activity. Anyone can Record and create a full-motion video tutorial or presentation, in real-time, and publish it in the format of their choice. No multimedia or programming experience necessary! This is great for tutorials or just to simply show someone how a feature works by seeing the exact steps you are taking to perform it.

9. Aquadock - I mentioned this one before but it is still super cool. If you are or know a Macintosh user you may have seen the Apple Docker. Here is a similar version but brought to the PC world. This one always makes people jaws drop when they see it in action the first time.

10. Konbalulator - I cannot begin to fully explain what this software full does as it can be anything. If you are looking to create your own widgets that is pretty easy to do via javascript and .xml too.

Though I ended up with more than 10 so far this is one (or two) of the coolest utilite(s) of them all:
11a. Desktop Sidebar - Much like the Konfabulator above this can be almost anything, but within the confines of a single bar. If you have seen longhorn you may recognize the concept. Though I have not been using this as long as the one below I have found it to be a good replacement as my personal favorite has been slowly progressing.

11b. SmartBar XP - Similar in many respects to the one above this has been my favorite for the past 6 months, but sadly development has slowed to a snails pace.

happy computing...



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