Simple Timer

I thought I’d share this handy little timer I found while wandering about the Internet the other day. It’s called Orzeszek Timer and the thing I like about it is how simple it is (not simple to pronounce, but simple to use). Simply download Orzeszek, unzip it, and click on the .exe file inside.

A small window pops up, allowing you to type the amount of time you wish. As soon as you press Enter it does the rest, counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds. If you have a favorite timer app we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Task Coach – Simple Task List

I’ve been testing out this little program and found it to be quite handy. If you are looking for something to keep track of things you need to get done take a look here over at their website or grab the portable version here. It also works on Mac, Linux and iPhone.
Coolest Feature: It will create a task out of an Outlook email automatically, just drag an email from Outlook and drop it into Task Coach.

A Few Super-Useful Applications

Today I’d like to highlight a few programs I find extraordinarily helpful. If you’d like to give them a try simply click here (Run or Download and Run the program) and a folder will appear on your desktop with shortcuts to all the programs below.

A few highlights: these programs can help you manipulate PDFs, Pictures and Audio files. There is a tool for creating Webpages and Page layouts for flyers or magazines. I’ve even included one that is just fun, I hope you get as much use out of them as I do (and have fun doing it).

FotoGraphix – Image Editor (more powerful than paint easier than GIMP)
GIMP – Image Editor (Powerful but complex)
GreenShot -ScreenShot Tool
Scribus – Desktop Publishing (more powerful than Microsoft Publisher)

PDF Manipulation
Foxit – PDF Reader (Quicker than Adobe reader)
PDF Viewer – PDF Reader (Quicker than Adobe reader)
PDFTKBuilder – Simple interface allows you to Combine, Rotate and Split PDFs

Office Utilities
Nvu – Simple Webpage Creator
OutlookAttachView – Helps you manage your email attachments
PeaZip – Archives and Un-archives .zip .rar and a host of other formats
Snowbird – Alternate File Explorer (lets you quickly browse your files breadcrumb style)
Toucan – Program to help you backup/sync your files.

Sound and Video
VLC – Media player that plays almost any Video or Audio file
ImgBurn -Cd or DVD Burning, Nice and Simple
Audacity -Allows you to edit sound files such as .mp3s

Just for Fun
Stellarium – A Constellation Viewer (needed a fun program in the list I mean … um, it’s useful for calculating religious holidays and stuff…)

Disclaimer: These programs are not guaranteed or supported by ITS in any way. I seriously doubt it but if they do cause your computer to act strangely ITS can’t help you. Fortunately most of these programs have active forums which I have linked above. If you do run into trouble please check on the appropriate forum.

If you are offsite or using a laptop the click-here-link above will not work for you. Instead you may download the pack of programs here (110MB Download). Once you’ve downloaded the file simply unzip the file. You’ll find shortcuts (that will work) inside.

Finally these programs are made to work with windows only (sorry Mac and Linux folk)

The disclaimers and addendum’s are just to keep ITS from getting swamped with questions we can’t answer. I have been happily and productively using these programs with no ill effects for some time and I’m sure you will have much the same experience. Have fun!

As always contact the helpdesk if you have any questions (617-948-6109, ext 109 or

Texter- Free Text Expander

So I’ve been experimenting with a program called texter. It allows me to automate typing things I frequently retype. Let me give you an example:

I type openarc and then press the Tab key Text automatically replaces openarc with:

To open an outlook archive file:

1) Open Outlook

2) Select the File Menu

3) Click on Open

4) Outlook Data File…

5) Browse to Find the Archive (we recommend people save them in their U:\)

6) Select the Archive and press OK

The Archive now appears in the Bar at the left of Outlook

I have whole emails saved this way. Instead of typing out the instructions to access Jefferson each time someone asks for it I simply type jeff and texter writes the email for me.

It can save tons of time and works with word, notepad, outlook or any place in windows that you can enter text. If you are interested there is info on how to use texter here:

Download is here:

For Mac users I hear Text Expander is good (though I haven’t tried it myself)

One Downside to Texter is that Remote Desktop causes it to crash (Logging onto Jefferson for example). It seems each time I use remote desktop for something I need to restart Texter .

Scribus: Free Desktop Publishing Program

Awhile back I stumbled onto what I like to think of as, a reasonably easy to use, free layout editor: Scribus. If you need to make fliers, posters, advertisements, etc. Scribus might be worth a look. Here are my thoughts after using it for awhile:

Ease of Use
I found its learning curve to be similar to Microsoft Office Publisher (an average person can use it with a bit of effort)

This is tricky, I’d say somewhere between MS Office Publisher and Adobe InDesign. Several of the things I particularly like: the option to run the program from a USB key and the save as pdf feature.

More features than MS Publisher
Not impossible to learn (I’m looking at you Adobe Creative Products)
Saves PDFs

It has crashed on me once or twice
Not as powerful as Adobe InDesign
Not officially supported by ITS

Stuff I left out:
I’m really not sure how it compares to Quark as I have never used the program.

If you are interested you can download it here
Portable version here

Remote Desktop

Recently I found a handy little program that allows you to remote control another computer (or another person remote control your computer). It is simple to run, free and there is a copy that can be run from our network. I’ve made fairly detailed instructions and placed them here if you are interested.

Creating a PDF

That is the trick, isn’t it? The solution we have here at the UUA is called PDF Creator and works something like this: it is a piece of software that pretends to be a printer. Suppose you have an Excel document open and would like a copy as a PDF. Good old PDF Creator is standing around shouting: Pick me! Pick me! I’m the coolest printer! Pick me! If you do choose to print to PDF Creator it will ask you to save a file (this is the part where you pick where you want the new PDF to end up). Then still fooling the other program into thinking it is a printer, PDF Creator will get all the data that would normally be headed off to the printer and instead turn it into a PDF.

If you don’t have PDF Creator installed you can get it here. PDF Creator is the only PDF method officially supported by ITS, but here are some other ones I’ve found handy:

  • Open Office: An Office Suite that can do many of the things Microsoft Office can (does some things better, does some much worse or not at all) and it can create PDFs. Just install it fire it up and open the document you want then look for a little PDF icon on the toolbar. Click on that and presto it asks you where you want the PDF to end up. If you want to give it a whirl you can get open office here.
  • Free PDF The way this works is you upload the document you want converted and they email you a PDF. The downside is they have your email and might spam it. You can find it here.

Portable Apps: Your Life on USB

Today I’d like to share something that has been incredibly useful to me. You may remember I recommended Rocketdock for its portability. That’s because several years ago I discovered The site provides (free) software that can run from a USB jump drive. Think of it as carrying around all the programs you use with you. There are a million different ways it can be useful so I can’t go into all of them here, but I will say it is a very useful way to organize your digital life, not to mention get some use out of that old USB Key you have sitting around.

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Docks for Windows

As a poor Windows/Linux user I miss out on many of the joys of Mac OS X simply because I’m too cheap to buy yet another computer. However I have borrowed one of the better GUI (Graphical User Interface: Geek for what you see on the screen) elements that OS X has made popular. I refer of course to the Dock. I find it to be a useful (well and pretty) way to organize my shortcuts. Here are the two free docks for windows that I use:

Stardock ObjectDock

I install this one on all my desktops. It gives you lots of options (via right click on the dock) and has been very stable for me.

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Rocket Dock

The reason I use this one is for its portability, it doesn’t take as many system resources as Stardock and it can be run from a USB thumbdrive.

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