Category Archives: tools

Ditto Clipboard Manager

One of the most annoying limitations using any version of Windows, is the clipboard and its limited capacity of one entry. Even Microsoft’s DOS supported sort of a clipboard striking the F7 key to choose from the last ten commands.

Command Prompt Clipboard

However, using Windows only one single item can be placed into the clipboard. Using multiple tools, documents over time one would speed up work significantly if it would be possible to keep many things in the clipboard at once.

Quite a while ago, Microsoft introduced the Clipboard Ring for Visual Studio to cycle through the most recent copied code snippets as especially developers often need different fragments of code over and over again (said that kids, please remember, copied code is never good at all).

Anyway, how great would be the experience using Windows if one could access such a clipboard ring or similar outside of Visual Studio? Ditto Clipboard Manager is a small open source project, providing especially this functionality:

“Ditto is an extension to the standard windows clipboard. It saves each item placed on the clipboard allowing you access to any of those items at a later time. Ditto allows you to save any type of information that can be put on the clipboard, text, images, html, custom formats, …..”

It does keep anything in your clipboard, is easy accessible and does even provide a preview for many things copied during your work day.

Ditto

There is a whole bunch of shortcuts and  if you don’t like its appearance go ahead and theme it differently. I haven’t tried all the options Ditto does provide, however, I am already using it on all my machines at work as well as home. So go and give it a try.

Pixeur Color Picker

For quite a time, Pixeur became one of the tools I almost can’t work without anymore. It is a lightweight and free color picker provided by Veign.

First of all, it’s easy to pick a color from the standard color palette. A great feature is the automated calculation of HSB, RGB and CMYK and Hex (the numbers used in HTML code) values. Which value you ever need, Pixeur does calculate the corresponding color codes. 

Pixeur Color Picker 

The ultimate uber feature is the screen picker tool. You simply drag and drop the pointer to the pixel on your screen you want to know the color code from.

Screen Color Picker

Drag and drop the target icon to whatever pixel on your screen to get the exact color value. In addition a zoomed area of the hovered are is shown in the corner of your screen which makes it quite easy to pin down a single pixel even on some kind of retina like displays.

Picking a single pixel with Pixeur

It’s very simple to use and so far I haven’t had any issues with the tool. Amazingly, the tool worked since ever on various Windows versions I used so far including Vista and windows 7 without the need of updating.

Pro:

  • easy to use
  • low footprint (~2MB)
  • provides color values in various formats
  • screen wide color picker
  • zoom of the hovered area when picking a color
  • free (i.e. no money, cash, PayPal or diamonds needed)

Contra:

  • Hard to find on the web

The tool is so great, I usually forget about it until I need to get a color code or pick some pixel’s color from the screen. It’s one of the first tools I install after setting up a new machine, and there’s the problem – if you don’t know where to find it, it’s hell of a job to find the download site.

There are probably a dozen of similar tools out in the wild, and each and every major drawing program probably provides such features. However, as a free, and very easy to use alternative, give it a try.

Restore Desktop Layout on Windows

Works on my machine!I continually move between different office places using different setups for monitors with my laptop. Sizes, numbers and orders of the monitors vary from place to place. As a consequence, you either deal with a complete mess on your desktop or you spend several hours per week in rearranging icons on your desktop.

Tired of doing so, I was looking for a nice tool for Windows, easy to use. Desktop Restore by Jamie O’Connell is such a tool available for Windows x86 and x64 systems and it is free to use (while he appreciate donations). For me, it works fine on a Windows 7 64-bit machine.

It integrates well with the Windows Explorer  context menu where you can save and restore layouts for different resolutions. This even allows you to set up your desktop for different locations and restore them with a single mouse click.

Desktop Restore

I have used it for ages, however, I have not really realized how great this tools until I set up my machine from the scratch recently. 

Windows Metafile Preview on Windows 7

Works on my machine!The visual preview of files in Windows Explorer is one of the great features of Windows when looking for a certain file. Unfortunately, with Windows Vista Microsoft disabled the preview for Windows Metafile Format (.WMF) and Enhanced Metafile Format (.EMF) files. As I needed t work a lot with EMF files during my latest book project with Springer, I was looking for some way to enable the preview of the file types mentioned above in Windows Explorer.

Windows 7 without EMF/WMF preview

Fortunately, there is a great plugin called emfplugin written by Daniel Gehringer to enable the preview. The plugin is available for x32 and x64 machines and should work on both, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Once installed (and rebooted) the Windows Explorer is capable of displaying EMF and WMF files.

Windows Explorer EMF and WMF thumbnail preview plug-in

The plugin is licensed under the MIT license, so its safe to go with it. At the very end this raises the question why Microsoft did actually disable the preview for two formats developed by Microsoft itself and whether they might work with Windows 8 again.

DropBox with TrueCrypt on Lion and Windows

After receiving my new MacBook, I wanted to sync a whole set of files between both systems. For convenience, I decided to use DropBox instead of a thumb drive and for security reasons, I decided to use TrueCrypt to encrypt some of my confidential data within the DropBox folders.

Using a TrueCrypt container within DropBox is quite convenient as I am syncing my DropBox folders with various machines (e.g. at work). However, I do not want to access these file there nor do I want that an admin might check out my “oooh so secret” files (not saying they would, though).

DroppBox with TrueCrypt on Lion and Windows

With my rusty Mac OS kung-fu, I had to install TrueCrypt first. Of course, this failed and being the first app I did install on Lion, this was somewhat demotivating. Before you have install a version from MACFuse. It seems that the official version is not up to date, however, there are rumors you might use the latest version provided at Tuxera.com.

Once MACFuse and TrueCrypt are set up and the machine is rebooted, create a TrueCrypt container within DropBox. When creating on OS X Lion, you might want choose FAT for the containers file system so you can mount it on the Windows system as well. However, any change within this container will synchronize the container as a whole. Not being very efficient if this is a 256 MB file, it seems that one can turn of the timestamp of the TrueCrypt container to avoid syncing it. This will prevent that the container gets synced after files within the container are changes, however, the itself files are still updated. To turn it of, open TrueCrypt and select Settings / Preferences… chose the Security tab and uncheck the Preserve modifications timestamp of file container checkbox.

TrueCrypt Settings on OS X Lion

Of course, the same has to be done on your Windows system.

TrueCrypt Settings on Windows 7

Once both settings are applied, only the initial sync of the container will take some time. Thereafter, only the files within the container are updated. for me this seems to be a quite good solution to keep my boxes in sync and to avoid rubbernecks seeking through my private stuff. The setup is done quite easily, only the hassle with MACFuse was quite annoying.

Cleaning Up the Explorer ‘New’ Menu

If you are using your Windows machine for a while, it is inevitable that you install a whole bunch of Software. Especially a developer machine might end up with a lot of application and tools, you use for work or evaluation. This is the first article in a series of steps how to clean up your Windows machine, and to optimize your personal workflow.

Some tool that come with support for a particular file extension might extend the Windows Explorer ‘New’ sub menu. In my case I currently ended up with about 20 entries, while I regularly use only two or three of them. Most if them I barely touch. To minimize noise and to speed up your personal workflow you might want to get rid of some of them and renaming others. E.g. all Office documents are usually prefixed with ‘Microsoft’ while you might just want to see them as ‘Word Document’  or ‘Excel Document’.

Insert New Menu

 

To modify these entries, you eventually would use the Registry Editor. Each entry is located in the registry using its own key at:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT.[fileExtension]ShellNew

However, maintaining this list is rather time-consuming task and no fun at all.  After some investigation I found a very nice freeware tool called ShellMenuNew from NirSoft that eventually does the job for you. It’ is a small tool which does not need to be installed and can be used straight away.

ShellMenuNew

By right-clicking any of the entries you can select ‘Disable Selected Menu Items’. Once you open up the ‘New’ submenu in Windows Explorer the menu should be look much tidier.

In case you change your mind, you can always start ShellMenuNew again and enable the file extensions again. The tool worked nicely on my x64 Windows 7. Regarding the author’s website it should also work on Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003/2008, and Windows Vista. Solved this task,  the renaming of the entries is still pending.

Modified Windows Explorer 'New' File Menu

Also here a small freeware tool comes in handy. Default Programs Editor provides a set of functionality to edit file type settings, autoplay settings and default programs settings. Also this tool can be sued straight away and does not need any installation.

Default Programs Editor

Default Programs Editor lets you easily change any kinds of associations with respect to files extension. Using the ‘File Type Settings’ you can select the ‘Description’, search for the file type you want to rename and finally change the file type description.

Using those two tools it is possible to minimize noise in your working environment without hacking the registry manually.

Quickstart with AWStats and IIS 7

AWStats is a free, Perl-based analyzer for log files. To get results quickly on a Windows Server 2008 with IIS 7 you only have to follow a few steps. These are not well documented in the AWStats documentation and require some time of research. This post will show you how to set up AWStats with IIS7 in only a few minutes.

  1. Install Perl, e.g. ActivePerl. There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions available. Make sure that Perl is added to your PATH environmental variable. The ActivePerl installer usually provides this option during the installation.
  2. Install AWStats. Remember the path AWStats is installed. Paths used below are based on the installation folder of AWStats. In this example we use c:awstats.
  3. Run the configuration script at c:\awstatstoolsawstats_configration.pl. Follow the on screen instructions. This will create a default configuration file in c:\awstatswwwrootcgi-bin e.g. called awstats.www.example.org.config. The site name www.example.org depends on whatever site name was provided while running the script. When asked for the Apache Web server path type in none.AWStats Configuration File
  4. Open the configuration file awstats.www.example.org.config with any text editor of your choice.
  5. AWStats already supports IIS, however, it is required to tweak the config file. First change the entry for LogFile. Log files for IIS might be found at c:inetpublogsLogFilesW3SVCNNN where NNN is a different number for each web site, IIS creates log files for. Change the entry toLogFile=”c:awstatstoolslogresolvemerge.pl c:inetpublogsLogFilesW3SVC1*.log |”

    This will merge all log files for a site provided by IIS. Adjust the paths corresponding to your installations and desired log file folders.

  6. The AWStats configuration file offers the possibility to set the LogFormat to IIS (LogFormat=2), however, the log entries provided by a standard installation of IIS 7 won’t match. The AWStats documentation recommends to change the settings of IIS. The change will take effect only after restarting the Web site and is only valid for entries after that particular moment. Consequently, this is not an option if you are going to analyze the logs of the last 12 months where the original settings were used. To make AWStats work with the standard log format of IIS 7 change the LogFormattoLogFormat=”%time2 %other %method %url %other %query %other %host %other %code % %other %other %bytesd”
  7. Change SiteDomain and HostAliases to meet the settings of your site.
  8. Change to c:awstatswwwrootcgi-binand runawstats.pl -config=www.example.org

    This will build the statistics database for AWStats.

  9. To create output runawstats.pl -config=www.example.org –output –staticlinks > …example_org_stats.html
  10. Not that example_org_stats.html is created one folder up. In case you do miss this, the output will not work correctly until you adapt the entries for DirCgi and DirIcons in the configuration file.
  11. The output file is now located in c:awstatswwwroot. You might want to create a Virtual Directory or set up a Web site to view the reports via the Web or your Intranet.AWStats Output

Repeat steps 3-7 fore each site you want to create reports for. Repeat step 8 and 9 every time you want to create a new report.

f.lux Compensator

Not really a productivity tool, but apparently some tool that makes working all day long on the screen much more convenient.

“f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again”

f.lux adjusts the color temperature of your display to the time of the day. It ranges from 6500 Kelvin during daylight to 3400 Kelvin during the night. Give it a try, downloads are available for Windows XP/Vista, Mac OS X and Linux (glibc6).

f.lux

ZoomIt

ZoomIt (by Mark Russinovich), a classic tool for presenting. Quite lightweight with few but good options. The zoom capability allows you to zoom into the area of the screen where the mouse points to. The draw and type capability allows to draw and type on your screen. Way cool if you are using a Tablet PC, though. Finally, the Break function is a countdown. Nice for speakers this one comes with a few nifty functions such as playing a sound and displaying a custom background image.

ZoomIt

And no, it’s not a tool only for evangelists giving talks in large lecture theaters. It also comes quite handy in meetings and presentations within the team and in front of customers.

GScroll

In case you are using the HTC Touch Pro or DHTC Touch Diamond, get your hands on the demo version of GScroll. Simply copy the .cab file to your device and start it from there. It runs for five minutes only, but this should be enough to convince you to get this tool.

It makes use of two of the built-in sensors of your HTC Touch Diamond/Pro to navigate in applications. The nice but less useful one to the Tap & Tilt functionality. Double-tab the center wheel and tilt the device to navigate within your applications. The more interesting one is the Swipe control.

Swipe

By swiping your finger over the buttons you can navigate left/right and up/down. This becomes very handy e.g. using the photo and video collections. Using the touch screen there often causes the touch screen to recognize the swiping as a tap, opening the photo. Also navigating within Windows folders becomes quite comfortable.

A further feature is to assign the buttons to additional programs. However, this means not by pressing the button. It means by tipping the buttons. Once, I received the device I was quite frustrated to have only limited buttons on the device, compared to my previous devices.

How does it work: The device has not only the resistive touchscreen, the button panel is also a capacitive sensor which causes in fact that the navigation wheel works.

With a price of $4.99, there is no reason to support those guys in buying a copy.

Link: http://www.mobilesrc.com/GScroll.aspx