06 January 2008

#52. Bite-Size Utility Assortment

It’s tapas week at the Tool Bar & Grill, where today’s offering is a buffet of delightful little morsels – a variety of small special-purpose utilities, all in one place. And after the appetizing tapas, special guest blogger Mark Lautman tells us about Something Very Good: SVG.

Skrommel to the Rescue

I have long been a devoted fan of DonationCoder, a public service site that hosts and encourages developers of free software. DonationCoder includes downloads, reviews, and professional forums. I have found some great utilities there, including Screen Captor, Clipboard Help+Spell, and Find And Run Robot.

One particular DonationCoder page is a veritable cornucopia of clever little utilities: Skrommel’s 1-Hour Software, a collection of executable AutoHotKey scripts that sprang from Skrommel’s imaginative mind. I could not discover anything else about this Skrommel, but the utility-using public owes him or her much gratitude – and some donations to express it, too.

I can’t list all of Skrommel’s little programs because there are about 100 of them, but by listing some of my favorites, I do not imply that the others are less worthy of your consideration. Here is just a sampling of Skrommel 1-hour utilities:

  • GoneIn60s – After you close a program, this utility holds it open in the background for another minute, enabling you to recover it if you closed it accidentally.
  • ShiftOff – Turns CapsLock off when you press Shift and a letter key.
  • TrayScreenSaver – Select and launch screen savers from the system tray.
  • DoOver – Record keystrokes and mouse actions into a macro, edit it, and play it back.
  • WhatColor – Identifies the RGB colors of any color on screen.
  • ToddlerTrap – Disables key and mouse input, for when Junior or Fluffy traipse across the keyboard (or if you just want to clean it).
  • NoStrayClicks – Disables a laptop’s touchpad.
  • AutoClip – Replaces text as you type with any other designated text, clip, or image.
  • Noise – Keeps the computer from falling asleep by sending it keystrokes.
  • BatteryRun – Runs the command you specify whenever the power plug is connected or disconnected.
  • Barnacle – Adds your custom macro toolbar to any program.

Head over to DonationCoder and find your own favorites. If you use and like any of them, I encourage you to send a donation to reward the author.

SVG: Not Your Mother's HTML

By Mark Lautman

If you've made a diagram with OpenOffice Draw, you've used it. If you've made an organization chart in Visio, you've used it. If you've resized a clip art, you've used it. If you zoomed in and out of a PDF, you've used it. The “it” is Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), and the stuff is everywhere -- even in the food you drink, the water you breathe, and the air you eat. (Maybe the water you eat, the food you breath... oh, never mind.)

First, a brief background on SVGs. An SVG file contains commands like “move to point A, then draw a red line from A to B, then arc from B to C, return to A, and then fill the enclosed area with a 30% gray color.” Plotters provide a good visualization of SVG commands; this YouTube video is an example. You see a variety of commands moving the pens up and down, to and from a variety of points. These are precisely the commands embedded in an SVG.

The beauty of SVGs is that they are truly “scalable.” You can resize the objects and they retain their original, undistorted shapes – something that most 40-year-olds would like to do as well. If the original command says to move the pen 100 units to the right, and you scale the image by 50%, then the command recomputes to move the pen only 50 units to the right.

Until now, you could view SVGs only in drawing programs, like OpenOffice Draw, Visio, and PowerPoint. However, now some modern web browsers also can render SVGs. If you're running Firefox 1.5 or later, take a look at http://www.carto.net/papers/svg/samples/shapes.svg. It should appear as follows:

These shapes are not images, they are scalable graphics. If you reduce your browser window to one-fourth of the screen, you'll notice that the shapes automatically reduce in size.

The Zoom And Pan Firefox add-in enables you to zoom and pan across SVGs. The following example shows the previous image magnified several times. Because the objects are scalable, they don't suffer from the “jaggies” like magnified raster graphics.

Adobe has a fabulous browser plug-in for viewing feature-rich SVGs. The SVG Viewer displays SVGs that include animation. (Note: Adobe has announced that it will stop supporting SVG Viewer after 2008.)

In the next column I'll discuss some great sources for SVG files. In the meantime, enjoy this poem based on the pat-a-cake nursery rhyme:

There's the monster, there's the monster, in Loch Ness,
Draw me its figure in five seconds or less.
Zoom it, turn it, and fill it with green,
It still looks perfect -- it must be SVG! —Mark Lautman

I trust you found today’s Tool Bar & Grill snacks satisfying. Do please return next week for more helpful utility and Web site recommendations, and tell everyone you know about us too! I encourage you to share your ideas and suggestions by clicking on “comments” below or writing to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.


  1. Hi Jonathan,

    Could you please write a review about the best, most reliable and complete "email backup program"? Or suggest a previous review that you may have done?

    I have discovered this program, I would like to have your opinion on it:


    I am the person who always signs as 'Josh' at Giveawayoftheday (although this year, I will have other more important things to do, I already have searched for too much software).

    I like to compare different opinions, before taking a final decision on a program.

    Thank you in advance, and Happy New Year 2008.

  2. Thank you for writing in, Josh. I have not yet reviewed email backup programs in depth, but I did mention the best ones I know about in post #43 (28 October 2007). I am not familiar with Mailstore, but hope to check it out in the future.

  3. "If you zoomed in and out of a PDF, you've used it."
    I, personally have never been able to zoom anywhere using Adobe's PDF. I have, however, been tapped gently on the shoulder and told to wake up because the page had finally loaded.
    Macromedia works great for me on the other hand.

  4. Thank you Jonathan, I will read your review #43.

    The reason for my question about email backups, is that I will soon do a complete reinstall of Windows XP (I know it will be a pain preparing all this), with a much simpler configuration, relying more than I did before, on separate partitions for more security, easier backups, etc., and only the best and most useful programs.

    Your blog is very interesting and useful. I actually rely on very few websites - one of them, in 2007, was Gizmo's 46 Best, the other one for security, was Castlecops - for taking a decision about a software.

    I first thought, you already owned of your own Bar & Grill - besides reviewing software -, where you served beers, grills. It would be a really interesting idea to implement (and I know, a lot of work), it's a nice way of making new friends with customers (and maybe involving the theme of computers, software, etc. - with a cybercafe, organized like a restaurant, not something cheap, it's possible to create something like that). Best regards, and Happy New Year 2008.

  5. Good luck on your reinstall, Josh. It's a great thing to do, if you can find the time. And thanks for your compliments on my blog. I will try to continue making it worth your while to visit -- virtually only, though. Opening a real-world bar and grill is not in my future; this virtual one is enough work already!