Tag Archives: productivity

Surf Smarter – Take A Sneak Peek At Links With CoolPreviews Firefox Add-on

imageI carry a total of eighteen Firefox add-ons; some – including NoScript, Adblock Plus, WOT, and BitDefender QuickScan – beef up security. Others, such as DownloadHelper, WebMail Notifier, and Google Shortcuts, help me keep the productivity curve trending upward.

The security add-ons are an absolute necessity – interacting with the Internet without them would be akin to traipsing through a minefield – just waiting for the BOOM! The productivity add-ons are less critical – I could (if I had to), get along without them – except for one –  CoolPreviews.

I love CoolPreviews – a Picture-in-a-Picture free Browser add-on, that lets me preview links and rich media content, without clicking the link, or leaving my current page.

With CoolPreviews, I just place my mouse cursor over a link, or over the CoolPreviews icon, and a customizable preview window of the website that the link points to instantly appears with the content; page view, image view, or even video.

I can fully interact with the preview window; play the video, click on links, fill out forms, and more. In fact, I can interact with the preview just as if I had the full page open. If I need to, opening the full page is easy; a simple click on the CoolPreviews full page icon, and I’m there.

I find that by using CoolPreviews, I save time and reduce the drudgery involved in trying to determine which sites are worth investigating. CoolPreviews lets me take a quick look at each link to see if it’s worthwhile investigating further.

I use this tool every day to confirm that the links in my “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News” column, are live. The screen capture below illustrates how this works. Click on the graphic to expand to original (1157 x 490).

image

It takes me less than two minutes to check 20/25 links this way, as opposed to – open a link, close a link; open a link, close a link; open a link, close a link; ……. Well, you see the point.

A final example:

Every day, I visit each of the sites in my Blogroll (gotta see what my friends are up to!), and rather than click through to the site, I use CoolPreviews. If the content is a “need to read”, like my good buddy Paul Lubic’s most recent article is – clicking on the “open to Tab” button in CoolPreviews, does just that.

image

It’s no wonder Mozilla lists this neat little tool as a recommended Firefox add-on, and also includes it in its most popular list of browser add-ons. CoolPreviews definitely increases productivity; what a time saver!

Fast facts:

Preview links without clicking

Preview images and videos

CoolPreviews 3-D Wall or slideshow mode for Google Image Search

Works on Google, Yahoo!, MSN, YouTube, Flickr ……….

Works on just about any website, blog, forum

Stack temporarily bookmarks (this is a very cool feature)

Instantly email links

Zoom in/out functionality

Sub search any phrase by right-clicking

Customize preview activation method and themes

Enable/disable previewing on customizable choice of sites

Unfortunately, CoolPreviews is available only for Firefox. Previous support for IE, Safari, etc., has been discontinued.

Requirements: Firefox 3.6 – 4.0. Supports Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Download at: CoolPreviews or Mozilla.

Update: February 4, 2011. My good buddy Rick Robinette, whom I often refer to as the “Great Freeware Hunter”, has just posted on a similar add-on designed for Chrome. If you’re a Chrome user, then be sure sure to checkout Rick’s article over at What’s On My PC.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Linux, Mac, Productivity Software, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

17 Free Productivity Applications That Make Life Easier

The Internet is loaded with free software, but it seems to me, that most free software is either security related, or system related. There’s nothing wrong with that of course; but because freeware offerings are heavily weighted in favor of these types of applications, productivity applications tend to get lost in the fog.

As a consequence, you might think that you have to wander the aisles of your local computer store to find good quality productivity software. But, you don’t.

There’s a wealth of tried and tested free productivity software out in the wild blue of the Internet, that will meet virtually every need you’re likely to have.

Take a look at the following recommended free downloads and I think you’ll find that these applications will more than do the job.

Working with words:

OpenOffice.org 3

OpenOffice.org 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers.

It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages.

AbiWord

If you want to go light on a word processor then AbiWord is for you. AbiWord, an open source application, has been designed to integrate perfectly with the operating system it runs on, and there are many, including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X (PowerPC).

There’s no need to worry about document compatibility issues with AbiWord since it can read, and write, all industry standard document types, including Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Office Open XML (MS Word 2007), Rich Text Format (RTF), HTML web pages, and many more.

WordWeb

WordWeb is a handy utility that gives you the definition, synonyms, and antonyms of any given word without requiring you to go online, though it can connect to the Internet for expanded functionality should you want it.

If you’re a writer, a student, or you just want to find the right word to get the right message across, then the free WordWeb Thesaurus and Dictionary for Windows application will be invaluable.

PDF Tools:

PDFill PDF Tools

Included are Merge, Split, Reorder, Encrypt, Decrypt, Rotate, Crop, Reformat, Header, Footer, Watermark, Images to PDF, PDF to Images, Form Fields Delete/Flatten/List, PostScript to PDF, PDF Information, Scan to PDF, and Create Transparent Image options.

PrimoPDF

Create PDF files faster with the only free PDF creator to support one-click, drag-and-drop PDF creation. Convert to PDF from any file you can print, including Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats.

Desktop Publishing:

SerifSoft PagePlus SE

Interested in producing a family newsletter, a business newsletter, a company newsletter or an employee newsletter? Want to produce a clean, bright design that will enhance your newsletter’s message? Want to do it for FREE?

This neat little Desktop Publishing application includes a range of preset document layouts, automated templates, great color schemes and artistic effects, which will allow you to produce professional looking results.

Satisfy your creativity with drawing applications:

Inkscape

An Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Inkscape supports many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.) and great care is taken in designing a streamlined interface.

It’s very easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps and much more.

Blender 3D – Open Source Animation to the Max

Blender is an incredibly robust 3D software animation program. It’s been designed for modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulating, non-linear editing, compositing, and creating interactive 3D applications.

Google SketchUp 7

Google SketchUp is software that you can use to create 3D models of anything you like. Build models and add them to Google Earth. Most people get rolling with SketchUp in just a few minutes. Dozens of video tutorials, an extensive Help Center and a worldwide user community mean that anyone who wants to make 3D models with SketchUp, can. Redecorate your living room. Design a new piece of furniture. Model your city for Google Earth.

You can build models from scratch, or you can download what you need. People all over the world share what they’ve made on the Google 3D Warehouse. It’s a huge, searchable repository of models, and it’s free.

Working with photos:

Google Picasa

At its most basic, it’s a photo manager and viewer. Fire up Picasa, and you can browse through all of your photos, organized by folder, as well as by the year they were stored on your hard disk.

But all that is just a start. It also has a full complement of editing tools, and lets you create CDs full of photos, as well as photo collages, screensavers, and posters. It will upload your files Google’s Web albums photo site, publish your photos to your Blogger blog, and plenty more as well.

XnView

With XnView you can import more than 400 graphic file formats then convert them to other formats such as GIF, BMP, JPG, PNG, multi page TIFF. As well, you can export more than 50 graphic file formats.

XnView doesn’t stop there however; it also provides you with more advanced features such as Web page creation, contact prints, multiple conversion (format and transformation), slide shows, screen capturing and twain support for scanners and digital cameras.

Web site creation:

Weebly

If you’re looking to create that first web site using a WYSIWYG visual web page creator, and you want to do it for free, including web hosting, then this free service from Weebly will fill the bill admirably. With Weebly you control virtually every essential aspect of site design – and built-in integration with Google AdSense, allows you to deliver text and image ads that are specific to your site and your site content, if you choose.

Media applications:

Audacity

Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Definitely the best of breed.

Winamp

A multimedia player that supports numerous audio and video formats. It also plays streamed video and audio content, live and recorded, authored worldwide.

Mapping Software:

Google Earth

Google Earth lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean. You can explore rich geographical content, save your toured places, and share with others.

Mind mapping software:

FreeMind

FreeMind is an open source mind mapping software that enables you to visualize ideas, projects, concepts, brainstorming, internet research or any other task that can benefit from a structured overview. You can create nodes with child and sibling nodes and add icons, clouds, notes and custom formatting for better presentation.

The nodes can be expanded or collapsed, or interactively linked to local files, other maps, online resources and more. You can also insert encrypted nodes or create encrypted maps for sensitive projects. The finished maps can be exported to HTML, clickable XHTML, Open Office document, image file and other formats.

Control your cash:

AceMoney Lite

AceMoney Lite is a freeware personal finance manager. It has all the features of its big brother except multiple accounts management. As AceMoney, AceMoney Lite helps people organize and manage their personal finances quickly and easily. It supports all the features required for home or even small-business accounting needs.

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Filed under Audio Applications, DeskTop Publishing, downloads, Drawing Software, Free Photo Applications, Free Word Processors, Freeware, Google, Image Editors, MS Word Alternatives, Photo Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Website Builders, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

WordWeb Thesaurus and Dictionary – Helps You Say What You Mean

It would be hard to argue, that a picture is not worth a thousand words. On the other hand, there are times when the appropriate word will convey the intended message far better than a picture. I can think of a few words that have the power to do just that, and I’m sure you can as well. Even words that mean the same thing, can covey very different messages.

If  you’re a writer, a student, or you just want to find the right word to get the right message across, then the free WordWeb Thesaurus and Dictionary for Windows application will be invaluable.

WordWeb is a one-click English Thesaurus and Dictionary for Windows that can be used to instantly find definitions, synonyms, and pronunciations for words in virtually any Windows program.

It works off-line, but it can connect to the Internet enabling you to look up words in any web reference encyclopedia. The data base in WordWeb includes over 150,000 root words and 120,000 synonym sets.

image

Features of the free version include:

Definitions and synonyms

Proper nouns

Related words

Pronunciations

150,000 root words

120,000 synonym sets

Look up words in almost any program

There are tools within the program for changing the database to one of nine different variations of English: British, Irish, American, Canadian, Australian, Indian, and global English.

I have used this neat little application for many years, and I find it invaluable. If you’re serious about improving your communication skills, installing this free application will be a positive step in that direction.

I was quite surprised to see that this small application averages over 33,000 weekly downloads at Download.com. It looks as if proper word usage might be coming back into style after all. Now that would be a pleasant and positive step.

Note: The author is a concerned environmentalist, so this free version of WordWeb comes with some very interesting ecological restrictions; read the license agreement for details.

System requirements: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Windows 7

Download at: Download.com

Alternatively you may go to WordWeb’s online international dictionary and word finder, which can handle more than 300 000 possible lookup words, and phrases.

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Filed under dictionary, downloads, Freeware, Productivity Software, Software, Student Help, thesaurus, Utilities, Writing Aids

Get Cooliris – You Don’t know What You’re Missing

If you don’t have Cooliris installed on your computer, you could be missing out on the best of what the web has to offer.

Web 2.0 has given us new and exciting ways to utilize the and interact with the Internet. I have to admit, when I stop to consider the benefits of Web 2.0, and the applications that got us here, one of the first applications that comes to mind is Cooliris.

Sure, we have Twitter and FaceBook, but in my view, these are just two of the social utilities that have been overhyped to the max, and which continue to be, along with many other social networking applications, natural gateways for cybercriminals.

Cooliris, on the other hand, is a wonderfully fluid and superbly crafted free add-on for Safari, FireFox, and Internet Explorer, which allows me to interact with the Internet in ways I never considered possible on a web browser.

Cooliris 5

Cooliris 9

What the developers have to say:

“It’s simply the fastest and most stunning way to browse photos and videos from the Web or your desktop. Effortlessly scroll an infinite “3D Wall” of your content without having to click page to page, whether you’re on Facebook, Google Images, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Kodak Gallery, or any supported site. Or channel surf the latest news, TV episodes, movies, and music videos – all from within Cooliris”.

Expand your own Internet horizons, download and install Cooliris, and while you’re at it, if you’re a FireFox user, download Cooliris Previews (almost 9,000,000 downloads to date). You’ll be glad you did.

Fast facts:

Search

It’s the fastest way to search Google Image Search, YouTube, Flickr, Hulu, online retailers, and other sites. Zip through search results on the 3D Wall with our search function. Switch engines effortlessly without having to re-enter the search term.

Cooliris 6

Works with hundreds of sites

Cooliris is built around the industry standard Media RSS format, and works on hundreds of sites across the Web.

Slideshows

Double clicking an image or pressing the toggle button brings you to full screen slideshow mode. There, you can play, pause, fast forward, and rewind at will.

Channels: News & Entertainment

Hulu, ESPN, BBC, SonyBMG, MSN, and more …Catch the latest news, sports, and entertainment. Even enjoy full-length movies and TV episodes.

Preferences

Customize the look and feel of Cooliris – modify the number of rows, background image, wall angle, slideshow speed and more!

Local File Support

Quickly find and view photos stored on your computer. Enjoy images from your Hard Drive, Desktop, iPhoto, and more.

Sharing

Share stuff with friends by dragging and dropping content from the 3D Wall. You can share as many items as you’d like, and even add a personal message.

3D Window Shopping

Window shop some of the world’s largest retailers by comparing products visually on the Cooliris 3D Wall. Highlight an item to learn the price or click the shopping cart icon to jump to the corresponding product page of the retailer.

Cooliris 4

Jump to Page

A picture tells a thousands words, but sometimes you just want to see the detailed story behind it all. Cooliris makes that easy. A click of a button lets you toggle between Cooliris and the corresponding web page of any item.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, OSX: Mac OS X: 10.5-10.6.x (operates in 32-bit browser mode), Linux: Ubuntu 8.04+, Fedora 10.0+, OpenSuse 11+

Download at: Cooliris

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Comments Off on Get Cooliris – You Don’t know What You’re Missing

Filed under Browser add-ons, Cell Phone Apps, Digital Media, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Photo Tools, Safari add-ons, social networking, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Lotus Symphony Office Suite – A Blast from the Past?

Free Lotus Symphony Office Suite – your office in a box for tough economic times.

When I heard the words “Lotus Symphony” recently, I had a quick flashback to the “good old days” of MS-DOS. Sort of like a “back to the future” moment.

Symphony was the first “all in one” software package (text, spreadsheet, etc.) I bought for my IBM DOS OS computer, back in 1984/85. It seems to me, I paid something like $700/800 for this innovative (for then), software. According to the Inflation Calculator, that translates into $1,600 in today’s dollars.

Today, Lotus Symphony Office Suite ( a cross platform application), can be had for the grand sum of $zero. How times have changed!

Lotus Symphony Office Suite, offered by IBM, is a fairly basic, free (open source) substitute for Microsoft Office.

image

The principal components of Symphony, as with MS Office are:

Word Processor

image

Spreadsheet

image

Presentation Graphics

image

Fast facts:

Free

Reads and writes Open Document and MS Office formats

Macro support

Context-sensitive menus

Supports PDF conversion

Plug-in support to increase functionality

Multilingual supports 28 languages

If you are running a small office and you’re finding it tough going making ends meet, like the rest of us I suspect, the word “free” can be music to the ears. Lotus Symphony Office Suite while not a perfect replacement for MS Office, will meet your basic business needs.

IBM offers great support for this application, including plug-ins, downloadable clipart, and more.

System requirements: Windows XP and Vista; Intel Macs – OS X 10.5, Linux – Ubuntu

Download at: IBM

Open Office is another free Office Suite that is extremely popular and is worth a look.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Business Applications, Desktop Applications, downloads, Free Full Versions, Free Office Suites, Free Word Processors, Freeware, Microsoft, Open Source, Productivity Software, Software, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Cooliris – A Cool to the Max Browser Add-on

If you don’t have Cooliris installed on your computer you’re missing out on the best of what the web has to offer.

Web 2.0 has given us new and exciting ways to utilize the and interact with the Internet. I have to admit, when I stop to consider the benefits of Web 2.0, and the applications that got us here, the first application that comes to my mind is Cooliris.

Not Twitter, and not FaceBook, which, in my view, are just two of the social utilities that have been overhyped to the max, and which continue to be, along with many other social networking applications, tremendous gateways for cybercriminals.

Cooliris, on the other hand is a wonderfully fluid and superbly crafted free add-on for Safari, FireFox, and Internet Explorer, which allows me to interact with the Internet in ways I never considered possible on a web browser.

Cooliris 5

The developers of this free Internet Browser add-on, as well as being the developers of Cooliris Previews, a tool I couldn’t function without, on the Web, are a very talented group of people with true insight into how to create and develop tools to expand our internet horizons.

Expand your own Internet horizons, download and install Cooliris, and while you’re at it, if you’re a FireFox user, download Cooliris Previews. You’ll be glad you did.

Fast facts: (from the Cooliris site)

Search

It’s the fastest way to search Google Image Search, YouTube, Flickr, Hulu, online retailers, and other sites. Zip through search results on the 3D Wall with our search function. Switch engines effortlessly without having to re-enter the search term.

Cooliris 6

Works with hundreds of sites

Cooliris is built around the industry standard Media RSS format, and works on hundreds of sites across the Web.

Slideshows

Double clicking an image or pressing the toggle button brings you to full screen slideshow mode. There, you can play, pause, fast forward, and rewind at will.

Channels: News & Entertainment

Hulu, ESPN, BBC, SonyBMG, MSN, and more …Catch the latest news, sports, and entertainment. Even enjoy full-length movies and TV episodes.*

Preferences

Customize the look and feel of Cooliris – modify the number of rows, background image, wall angle, slideshow speed and more!

Local File Support

Quickly find and view photos stored on your computer. Enjoy images from your Hard Drive, Desktop, iPhoto, and more.

Sharing

Share stuff with friends by dragging and dropping content from the 3D Wall. You can share as many items as you’d like, and even add a personal message.

3D Window Shopping

Window shop some of the world’s largest retailers by comparing products visually on the Cooliris 3D Wall. Highlight an item to learn the price or click the shopping cart icon to jump to the corresponding product page of the retailer.

Cooliris 4

Jump to Page

A picture tells a thousands words, but sometimes you just want to see the detailed story behind it all. Cooliris makes that easy. A click of a button lets you toggle between Cooliris and the corresponding web page of any item.

Favorites

Keep track of the best items in Cooliris by adding it to your own custom feed!

Maximize/Restore

Toggle between full screen and tabbed mode.

System Requirements: Cooliris currently supports FireFox (Windows XP/Vista and Mac), Internet Explorer, and Safari (Mac), iPhone

For a Cooliris video preview checkout YouTube

Download at: Cooliris

5 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Digital Media, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Graphic Software, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Mobile Applications, Multimedia Tools, Safari add-ons, social networking, Software, Website Previews, Windows Tips and Tools

Tip – Be a Better Writer with WordWeb Thesaurus and Dictionary for Windows – Free

WordWeb is a one-click English Thesaurus and Dictionary for Windows that can be used to instantly find definitions, synonyms, and pronunciations for words in virtually any Windows program.

It works off-line, but it can connect to the Internet enabling you to look up words in any web reference encyclopedia. The data base in WordWeb includes over 120,000 root words and 120,000 synonym sets.

image

Features of the free version include:

Definitions and synonyms

Proper nouns

Related words

Pronunciations

150,000 root words

120,000 synonym sets

Look up words in almost any program

There are tools within the program for changing the database to one of several English variations, including nine different variations of English, including British English, Irish English, and American English.

I have used this neat little application for many years, and I find it invaluable. If you’re serious about improving your writing skills, installing this free application will be a positive step in that direction.

Note: The author is a concerned environmentalist, so this free version of WordWeb comes with some very interesting ecological restrictions; read the license agreement for details.

System requirements: Windows 98/2000/Me/XP/Vista

Download at: Download.com

1 Comment

Filed under dictionary, Freeware, Productivity Software, Software, Student Help, thesaurus, Windows Tips and Tools, Writing Aids