Category Archives: Freeware

Firefox Download Box, Controlling Your Annoying Friend.

A majority of my readers use Firefox to browse the web. I myself happen to be a big fan of Firefox, as some of my previous posts have indicated. Always striving for efficiency, I have made a few tweaks to lower my frustration and increase the enjoyment of my web browsing experience. Amongst these changes, one of the first things I do on a new install is to change the way the download dialog (ctrl+j) behaves.

To clarify, I don’t like the downloads box to pop-up when I start a download and I want to choose where to save my file. To achieve this, I go to Firefox options:

Firefox Options Menu

and select your options as noted below:

Firefox Download Options

To access the infamous download box in the future, use the ctrl+j hotkey combination:

Firefox Downloads Dialog

Free Project Management System – activeCollab Now Costs Money

When I do group projects at school, I like to keep the team in check with a project management system to keep a centralized collection of work, including conversation and various files about said work. In the past I had been a big fan of the (once open-source) Base Camp clone, activeCollab. However, as many of you reading this may know, activeCollab is no longer free.

Fear not my friends! There exists a fork called Project Pier, which picks up where the the free version left off.

Project Pier Overview

In my opinion, the default theme shies away from the clean cut web 2.0 freshness that was activeCollab but the folks at Project Pier were friendly enough to bundle some slick themes for those who are as nitpicky as I.

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas Eve and Happy Holidays to all. I hope you are enjoying time with loved ones and family. On my time off I’ve been doing a little research. I’m trying to learn more about 3d modeling so I can create more than just maps for the great game, Nexuiz. I’ve been dabbling in Blender 3d, which I came across some some awesome video tutorials. You can check out those Awesome Blender 3d Video Tutorials Here. This kid is really good at breaking down the tools and usage of the program.

I’ve also just finished writing a basic tutorial on map making for Nexuiz. I’ll be back post Christmas with some more application how-tos and such. Happy Holidays!

Taking Screenshots the Easy Way

I’ve mentioned this software before but I feel compelled to show you all why this software has made my list of software I install on a fresh format. This software is MWSnap, a program for taking and manipulating screenshots. When you first open the program, you’re greeted with this:

MWSnap - Take Screenshots Easily

On the left, you have your main options for screenshots and on your right, you have a preview. Each of the screenshots have hotkeys that you can learn by click ‘Capture’ on the menu bar. All of the options are pretty self-explanatory except the ‘Window/menu’ option, which you’ll learn to love fast.

When you select this option, the screen freezes and you have a dotted box that selects whatever menu or window you’re cursor is hovering on.

MWSnap - Window or Menu

This assures for a clean cut every time, quickly and easily.

And if you’re feeling fancy, you can garnish it by adding a cursor from the ‘edit’ menu:

MWSnap - Add Cursor

MWSnap has some interesting tools that come in handy at random times:

MWSnap - Tools

I’d say the ruler is the one I use most often.

MWSnap - Ruler

It’s floats above all other windows and lets you measures them by pixels. Don’t worry, it goes vertically as well.

And while I chose to use ColorPic for my color picking software. MWSnap’s color picker isn’t half bad.

MWSnap - Color Picker

There are only two downsides that I’ve found to this application. First being the lack of ability to crop… that to me is odd but I just open it up in IrfanView and take care of it that way. The other issue is multiple monitors. Unfortunately, MWSnap only recognizes the primary monitor. I don’t really have a work around for this, I just deal with it and drag windows I need to take screenshots of over to my primary monitor.

This software has saved me tons of time, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Bookmark Organization

Bookmarks are something most of us don’t really keep up to par. Sometimes you just ctrl+d on a whim, losing that page in your lack of a hierarchy forever. Well, at least that’s how it’s been for me. However, once in a while I give myself a kick in the ass and try to shape up. Based upon the patterns I’ve learned in the past and the general direction I wish to go, I reevaluate my mess and decide the proper way forward. In this case it was the standard, “Make general categories and add sub-folders if they need more organization” route… with a little extra spice.

My Bookmarks Organized

This time around, I decided to utilize folders in the bookmarks toolbar. Maybe I’m blind to this but I feel like most people don’t utilize this helpful feature, I know I didn’t until now. After spending a few days using folders on my toolbar, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is both effective and efficient.

My Bookmarks Toolbar

I spend a lot of time developing locally and often do rounds on my live sites and rather than waste 4 seconds typing in a 32 character URL, I’d rather waste 0.4 making two clicks. Yes, that’s right, I’m shaving off seconds to increase my efficiency. It might not seem like a lot but it adds up to minutes a day and hours a year.

Now, because I’m going to be spending a lot of time on my laptop, I needed a global solution to my bookmarks. The path I chose to get is syncing them with the Firefox extension, Bookmark Sync and Sort. If you don’t have your own server, there are some hosted alternatives such as Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer. Those trendy bookmark sites aren’t really the solution for me for a few reasons.

1) I like to control my data.
2) Those sites are usually distracting to me
3) While the Firefox bookmarks manager isn’t the ideal solution, the GUI is far more advanced than something you’ll find on a social bookmarking site.

Admittedly, there is an advantage to these sites, and that’s the fact that I can get to my bookmarks quickly no matter what computer I’m on. But again, I can argue that I can find a link just as fast (if not faster) with SSH by greping the xml file Bookmark Sync and Sort generates.

Back on track, once you have the extension installed, click ‘Bookmarks’ > ‘Synchronize Bookmarks’ and fill in the dialog with your information as such:

Bookmarks Sync and Sort

What kind of man would I be if I didn’t take advantage of this moment to sort my bookmarks?

My Bookmarks Sorted

Mmm, alphabetical order.

Now I just need to upkeep as best I can… I’ll let you know when I come up with a better solution for that. Right now, I just force myself to take the time to find the correct folder in the hierarchy. It’s a good habit but a hard one to keep. If you have any advice, please share. Good luck and happy bookmarking.

P.S. I edited the file wp-admin/admin-functions.php, line 2126 to increase the generated thumbnail size in wordpress. Just replace ’128′ with the max you wish. Thought maybe some of you could use that information.

Rename Master: Batch Renaming Utility

I’ve tried many different batch renamers for all sorts of reasons. More often than not, it’s for sorting images. The other day I came across a directory of images that I had (stupidly) prefixed and I needed to change that back. With a few simple clicks using Rename Master I was able to restore them quickly and easily.

Rename master has a very simple but intuitive gui with powerful options behind it. With some obvious wants and needs of a renamer such as a live preview of the rename and variables… Rename Master takes it a step further with their support for full regular expressions and thumbnail views.

Check this out:

rename-master-1.jpg

Breaking down the screenshot above, we can see that I’ve chosen to do two things (as denoted by the underlined tabs), I’m using the “Add To” and the “Replace” options to formulate the name “Lemonade Stand ##.jpg” and remove those ugly S########.JPG names.

Also, you’ll see I’ve brought up the thumbnail preview that I mentioned above. This is not necessary in this process as I’ve already moved all the “Lemon Stand” to their appropriate folder but I just wanted to let you see how it could come in handy.

The ?n02? code wasn’t something I knew by heart when I first starting using this program, these variables can be generated by the program if you click the blue arrow button next to the text field.

There is so much for me to mention about this program… but I don’t want to waste your time, do yourself a favor and download it. It’s a single file, coded in delphi so it doesn’t need to be installed.

This program all works with mp3 id3 tags.

Which Widget Didya Get?

I tried Konfabulator a while ago (emphasis on the while) and I wasn’t too pleased. It seemed laggy, buggy and more trouble than it was worth. However, recently I was on the lookout for a good desktop todo list, nothing too fancy but it seemed to achieve this, I would have to put my qualms aside and get some sort of widget program.

I decided to give Konfabulator another shot (now know as Yahoo Widgets. And I must say, I’m quite pleased! Everything runs smoothly, it integrates well with the OS and I haven’t had any crashes.

So if you haven’t tried out Yahoo Widgets, I definitely recommend it.

By the way, here is the todo list that I’m using.

Creating MySQL Queries Visually

Over the past few days, I’ve been creating some rather large and confusing SQL queries, so I went on a hunt to see if maybe there was a visual aid that would make the selects, joins and sub queries easier. I was a bit disappointed to find that MySQL offered a Query Browser that wasn’t available for download… or was it?

After a little more research I came about a link to a slightly thinner client in the developer zone under the Generally Available (GA) license. I’ve played around with it a bit and while it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, it’s helped me during those times I don’t feel like waiting on phpMyAdmin.

Check out this screencast to get a better idea of how this tool works. I’m sure I’ll grow to like this tool a lot more in the future, I just need to learn more about it’s functionality. I thought I’d pass this tip onto you.

mysql-browser.png

Batch Converting Your Images

While I love Adobe Photoshop and the amount of power it has behind it’s actions, sometimes I like to use a lightweight alternative.

IrfanView is a program I’ve mentioned before, it’s great for flipping through series of images but it’s also great at doing many other things (some of which I’ll mention in future posts), like batch converting. In the following example, I’ll do a quick run through on a real life example, creating image thumbnails.

So, lets start off by opening a folder with pictures you’d like to thumbnail:

Pictures I’d like to thumbnail

Open a picture with IrfanView and select ‘Batch Conversion/Rename’ from the file menu (B is the shortcut key)

Select Batch Conversion/Rename

Click the ‘Add All’ button (or optionally pick and choose the images you’d like to convert). And set your basic options. I made my output folder /thumbs, selected ‘Batch conversion – Rename result files’, made the output format GIF and set my rename mask to $N.t (which means [old image name].t).

Click Add All

Check the ‘Use advanced options’ box and click the ‘Set advanced options’ button.

Advanced options

I set my thumbnail size to 50% height and width but you can choose whatever you please. I also checked ‘preserve aspect ratio’ and ‘use resample function’ but those are optional.

Click ‘OK’ and you’ll be taken back to the previous window, click ‘start’ and bam, you’re done.

You can now navigate to your newly create thumbs folder

New thumbs

And marvel in the glory

Hey, it’s me!

This was a pretty simple example but I’m sure when you went to the advanced options window, the gears in your head starting turning. This program is a great tool, you should really play around with it and try to get the most out of it. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t use it.

Lesser Known But Useful Firefox Extensions

Those top 10 lists about the best Firefox for Web developers, the average person or your mother always piss me off because they list the same extensions every time. All those extensions are well known… it’s not like you have to tell a web developer about firebug or the web dev toolbar.

I use a lot of extensions. I have a minimum of 8 installed, even on my portable version. I tend to use some extensions that a lot of people never heard of and I find it surprising because they are really helpful! So without further ado, I give to you a list of some lesser known but useful Firefox extensions.

ErrorZilla

The default error page for Firefox is a bit minimal… there isn’t a lot of usefulness there… and if you’re a big digger or slashdotter, you know what a pain it can be to find a website crippled before you had a chance to few it. This handy little extension gives you some useful links, including ones to corel cache and google cache.
Find it here

URL Fixer

Lets talk about common annoyances for a second, shall we? Who here hates it when you type too fast for your own good… or just very poorly? There’s no excuse for poor typing but this extension has got your back for those silly slip ups you make in the address bar and scramble to fix before you reach an error page. With this extension, www.google.cmo will automatically change to www.google.com

This extension is a bit limited in the sense that the filters are hard coded into the javascript but it’s the best solution out there right now.
Find it here

Long Titles

Another common annoyance is the … on long tooltips. This extension saves you the frustration of guessing.
Find it here

Answers

This is just damn useful. If you’re ever reading something and come across a word or phrase you don’t know, simply hold alt and click it and it will open a handy little bubble inside the webpage you’re browsing.
Find it here

Aging Tabs

I never like to have too many tabs open in my browser but at times it becomes inevitable… and unfortunately confusing. With this extension though, I can easily pick out which tabs I’ve been using most frequently as the color gets darker with lack of use. Definitely worth a look.
Find it here