Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Clipboard Help+Spell

I started developing my own clipboard monitoring program a few years ago. As I started listing all of the requirements, I realized how much work was going to be involved. Being a lazy developer, I scoured the Internet for programs that already did what I wanted, but I never found one that did everything that I needed. A friend told me about DonationCoder.com and that they had a lot great software, so I checked it out.

The first thing that caught my eye was Clipboard Help+Spell -- I immediately downloaded it and tried it and I haven't stopped using it since. This program does everything that I wanted my own project to do, plus much, much more -- things I never even considered. Here's everything that it does that will help you daily:
  • It saves everything that you cut or copy to the clipboard so you'll have it later if you need it. This one feature is a life saver and a time saver because it allows you to collect information by copying, and then put it together later.
  • You can name and categorize your clippings so you can easily find them later. If you have to type or recall large blocks of text regularly, you can use the incremental search to quickly find them and paste them to the clipboard, then into whatever program you're using at the time.
  • To keep your clip database from getting too big, it will automatically move old clips to an "old" folder, then to a "trash" folder after x number of days or hours. To save something, check it as a favorite, or move it to another folder so it won't get automatically deleted. Everything else, eventually will go to the great bit bucket.
  • It has a quick paste mode that lets you type a hot key (Ctrl+Alt+Q by default) that will display a menu of the last 10 or so clips. To paste them into the current application, type the number of the desired clip and the text will be inserted at your cursor.
  • It has spell check -- misspelled words are highlighted in the application.
  • You can format your text right in the application, even using regular expressions. You can strip carriage returns, extra lines, and do search/replace (even using regular expressions!). The best part is the search/replace is done as you type, so you can see how your clip will be affected in real-time. Brilliant!
  • You can also rearrange the panes in the window according to how you work.
If you cut/copy/paste a lot of text, or if you want to start using this valuable untapped resource, this program is for you. Another fantastic program brought to you by DonationCoder.com. After you download it, please give them a little cash to let them know how much you appreciate their work -- everyone will feel better after you donate.

Find and Run Robot

Find and Run Robot is an awesome piece of software written by the fine folks at DonationCoder.com. These people provide really great freeware apps, but I highly recommend contributing a small amount of money to their site to help keep things going. They create these programs on their own time and for the good of the community, so please help them out -- they churn out great programs.

That said, Find and Run Robot is a must for anyone who runs lots of programs all day and constantly has stuff covering up their desktop icons. The way it works is that you simply start typing the name of what you want to run, and Find and Run Robot will, as the name implies, find it for you and then run it when you hit the Enter key. It searches incrementally, so it usually only takes a few keystrokes to find what you want to run.

For example, to run Excel you must invoke Find and Run Robot by pressing Alt-Spacebar or the Pause/Break key. Then simply type "exc" and Excel should be at the top of the list. If it is, hit the Enter key and Excel will start. If Excel isn't at the top of the list, but is visible in the list of found programs, simply typing the number next to Excel will run it.

There are tons of options to get Find and Run Robot to behave exactly the way you want it to -- and once you get used to it, you'll never have to go to your Desktop or Taskbar to find the program to run. Just Alt-Spacebar, type a few letters and you're ready to go.

Oh, and don't forget to donate a little cash these guys -- their programs are well worth the money.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I have been searching for the ultimate application for playing music for a long time. I have tried Windows Media Player (WMP), WinAmp, Quintessential CD Player (QCD), and various offerings from other companies for a long time and just couldn't be satisfied for some reason.

QCD is nice and has progressed nicely since I first tried it several years ago, but didn't fit the bill for reasons I just can't remember at this point. That left me bouncing between Windows Media Player and WinAmp for a year or two and I finally settled on WinAmp, and here is why:
  • WinAmp is free for playing all content, including video and tons of high-quality Internet radio stations. If you want to rip music at a decent bitrate, you need the Pro version for $19.95, but there are a number of good free rippers out there if you want to avoid this one-time cost. I know WMP is free, but I needed to mention that WinAmp is also free.
  • WinAmp is skinnable and has so many skins developed for it that you're sure to find a look and feel that appeals to you. In addition to the look, skins also can make WinAmp more usable by exposing features that are sometimes buried in menus and submenus and more submenus. The windowshade mode, coupled with the "Always on top" option means WinAmp is always available. Again, I know that WMP is also skinnable, but WinAmp has more skins available.
  • I really like the library and playlist support. At first the music library interface looks cluttered, but when you start using it you realize how powerful WinAmp is. As you type a search in the music library, WinAmp searches incrementally through the artist and title, only displaying artists and songs that match. From there, you can highlight an artist or album and click "Play" or "Enqueue" to quickly play your songs.
  • If you're at a loss as to what songs you want to play, WinAmp can help you out. It uses a technology from Predixis called MusicMagic that allows you to highlight a song and WinAmp/Predixis will find 20 songs similar to the highlighted song. You have to have all of your library indexed so Predixis can work correctly, but it's worth the one-time scan of your music.
I could go on and on about the various features of WinAmp, but I've got more software to write about. In the meantime, I'm going to crank up WinAmp and listen to some Arctic Monkeys.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

FileLocator Pro

Let's face it -- the Windows Search utility sucks balls. Not only does it take forever to find (or not find) what you're looking for, but it only supports basic wildcards like * and ?. You'd think the all-powerful Microsoft could provide a utility that could actually find files quickly. Since it can't, you need to try FileLocator Pro.

I first tried this great program as the freeware program Agent Ransack, but it lacked the one feature I really, really needed -- the ability to go right to the row and column of the text file I found. Since I'm a software developer, this was very important to me. I gladly paid the money for FileLocator Pro and the fact that it is always open on my desktop should tell you how much I use it.

The biggest advantages of FileLocator Pro is that you can use regular expressions in the file name, text to search for, and directories. I used this feature today to search for all text files with "log" or "est" extensions that contained the numbers starting with "4413" in log directories that began with "06". Anyone who knows the power of regular expressions will really appreciate the fact that a search program has this ability. I'm sure there are others out there that do the same thing, but I can assure you that FileLocator Pro is among the best.

Oh yeah -- it's really fast, too. And it doesn't have a cartoon dog getting in the way. OK, just go check it out.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Again, Google has redefined the way that an application should work. While most web-based mail services feel like traditional web sites, Gmail feels almost like a desktop application with its heavy use of client-side scripting to handle more activity in your browser.

So why do I like Gmail? Let me count the ways. First, Gmail is free and gives you a copious amount of storage space -- more than any other free web-based email service.

Second, they created a novel way to view conversations (or threads) -- by stacking just the subject lines in chronological order so you can see who responded and when. This approach makes it easy to keep up with a thread of multiple responses.

Third, Gmail uses the concept of tags, much like Flickr and del.icio.us, to categorize mail messages. For example, you could assign a tag of "Orders" to all of your online orders to easily find all messages relating to orders.

Fourth, Gmail employs filters to allow you to automatically forward, categorize, archive, star, or delete your incoming mail.

Fifth, Gmail's spam filtering is pretty accurate. I have had very little of my mail wrongfully marked as spam.

Sixth, Gmail uses shortcut keys to allow you to quickly handle your mail. A lot of people don't know about or use this feature, but I can quickly reply (r), forward (f), archive (y), or go back to my Inbox (u) with just a keystroke instead of hunting for the correct button or link to click on.

And last but not least, Gmail uses Google's famed search engine to allow you to quickly find the message you need. With all these things going for it, it's no wonder I love Gmail so much.