10 December 2006

#8. A Few of My Favorite Things

Welcome once again to my Tool Bar & Grill, where I bring you the best utilities and Web sites that have won my heart. Today, my favorite things are some free screen capture and WiFi tools.

Free Screen Capture #1: Screenshot Captor

SnagIt is widely regarded as the best screen capture utility (www.techsmith.com). But even if you can’t afford $39.95 for SnagIt, you can certainly afford $0 for Screenshot Captor. This open source program offers the expected capture options, including window, object, region, fixed region, and even scrolling window. The real excitement begins after the capture, when Screenshot Captor offers an impressive set of image manipulation and file management tools. You can even link it to other file- and image-handling tools for even more sophisticated jobs. It saves files in many popular formats, including PNG and even PDF. Screenshot Captor can be a bit intimidating, but after you make it over the learning curve you’ll appreciate its broad functionality. You can download it at www.donationcoder.com/Software/Mouser/screenshotcaptor.

Free Screen Capture #2: FastStone Capture

This is another great free screen shooter, but with a different approach than Screenshot Captor. FastStone Capture goes for simplicity and ease of use. It also captures windows, objects, fixed or dragged regions, and scrolling windows, plus freehand (irregularly shaped) regions. However, like SnagIt, it displays a magnified preview window while you drag the cursor around. FastStone Capture can leave a small floating tool bar on your screen, or can retreat to the system tray like Screenshot Captor does. It offers fewer editing tools, but they might be all you need. It also saves files in the most popular formats, including PNG and PDF. FastStone Capture works as dependably as Screenshot Captor, and costs the same for “home users.” Try it and some other cool utilities at http://faststone.org.

Free Screen Capture #3: MWSnap

Don’t write me angry e-mails touting MWSnap, another free tool with functionality similar to FastStone Capture. MWSnap (www.mirekw.com/winfreeware/mwsnap.html) also has received accolades from some users, but I have not tried it yet. Do feel free, though, to let me know about any other favorite utilities.

Stumble Your Way Into the Net

Even if you’re not a war driver, NetStumbler can be useful, and at least fun. NetStumbler is a wireless packet sniffer, a utility that seeks out and identifies WiFi networks. NetStumbler locates every WiFi network in range of your computer and tells you all about it. If the WiFi network is not secured, you can log on and use it. You might be surprised at how many of your neighbors have set up wireless networks, and at how few of them are secured. NetStumbler also is invaluable for business travelers who need to hook up with the office or the Internet from various locations. Or load NetStumbler on your laptop and roam the streets for kicks (that’s “war driving”). Get it absolutely free at www.netstumbler.com.

Remember, if you like a shareware utility and use it beyond the trial period, please pay for it. I also urge you to send donations, however modest, to publishers of free utilities that are distributed as "donationware" – including all the utilities above.

Thank you for your attention. As always, your feedback is welcome. And check back here again for another roundup of helpful tools. That’s right, I’m always on duty at the Tool Bar & Grill!

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.

25 November 2006

#7. Search Beyond Google

Welcome to this Internet edition of my Tool Bar & Grill, where it’s all Web, all the time. In this edition, I reveal some fascinating facts, surprising statistics, and helpful hints about Web searching.

Metasearch Engines

Most of us turn to Google by habit whenever we want to find something on the Internet – so much so that “Google” has become a synonym for “search.” But by doing so, we might be missing a lot of good information.

Since I made Copernic my default search engine a few months ago, I have seen repeated confirmation of this startling fact. Copernic is a metasearch engine, that is, one that searches through other search engines. It returns results from Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask Jeeves, and many other general and specialized search engines. Next to each result, Copernic names the search engines that provided it. The number of relevant hits that do not come from Google is shocking.

Research by Jux2, another metasearch site, shows that only fewer than four of the top ten search results in the Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask Jeeves search engines overlap. This means, for instance, that only three or four of Google’s top ten will also turn up in the first ten hits in a Yahoo search. The overlap is even lower when comparing three or four search engines to each other.

Check the example below. It shows seven results featuring my name (what? you thought I’d search on your name?) in Copernic, with no overlap at all. The three from www.elephant.org.il were returned separately by MSN, Google, and Yahoo. Two others from www.airset.com came from Google and Yahoo respectively. And the other two, from two different sites, came from MSN and Yahoo separately.

By contrast, the results shown below were each returned by two search engines and not others:

Copernic is not the only metasearch engine. I’ve also tried the Google-style Dogpile and Info, as well as the above-mentioned Jux2 – and there are many more. (All sites mentioned here end in .com.)

Yet even these search aggregators are not perfect. Strangely, most of them failed to turn up other references to my name, such as my long-ago contributions to The New York Times. Exalead found one of these, but failed to find some of the links that Copernic did. Exalead shows thumbnail previews of the result pages, which you can click through to the actual page while remaining in the Exalead frame. This should reduce the number of irrelevant pages you open before finding the desired information.

You can use these metasearch engines from their home pages on the Web. Some, including Copernic, also offer tool bars that plug in to popular browsers. Firefox and IE 7 users can add them to their search engine lists, so they’re always available without added tool bars.

Other Search Approaches

Some alternative metasearch approaches include Clusty (formerly Vivisimo) and Izito, which show result “clusters” as well as individual hits. Kartoo takes a pictorial approach, displaying metasearch results and their connections as a graphical map. It looks cool, and helps you visualize the relationships among the hits, but the hit descriptions are shorter and less useful than in other metasearch engines.

Snap and Ixquick are not real metasearch engines, but you might like them. Snap displays a large, readable preview of any listed Web page hit that you click. You can open a previewed page in the same window or in a new one. You also can rank the hits; Snap learns from your ratings to give better results next time. However, it relies primarily on only the Ask search engine. Similarly, Ixquick learns from your ratings of hits, and also ranks hits by the number of engines turning them up in their top 10. However, Ixquick apparently does not search through Google.

There is a whole universe of Web search beyond Google. Try some of these metasearch engines, and keep using the ones that suit you best. You have nothing to lose, and possibly much to gain.

New Music Discovery

And now for something completely different: For a charming, low-key hybrid of country, folk, and pop music, try out Distant Music by Adam Klein, scion of Athens, Georgia’s seminal alternative music scene. This debut acoustic album provides either thought-provoking introspection or pleasant listening, depending on your mood. You can read about the music and the artist and download a few songs for free at www.adam-klein.com. Or you can buy the album or some songs at iTunes, emusic, Rhapsody, Napster, www.athensmusic.net, and other sites. Full disclosure: Adam Klein is my nephew – but the music’s great regardless.

Thank you for your attention. Please send me your comments and suggestions. And peek back here on December 10 for more helpful hints.

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.

10 November 2006

#6. EULAppreciate This: Help with Required Reading, and Flame Retardant

Welcome back to my Tool Bar & Grill, where I bring you useful new Windows utilities or Web sites twice each month.

EULAlyzer Reads the Fine Print

When I get new software, I’m dying to find out what it can do for me, so I want to install and run it ASAP. Who wants to take time to read the interminable legalese of the end user license agreement (EULA) that stands in the way of setting up new software? But later, when you complain that your computer is swarming with spyware, adware, and spam, the publisher retorts that you agreed to it all in the EULA.

Here’s a new weapon against malware: EULAlyzer, a clever little utility that reads a EULA and flags suspicious words and phrases “of interest.” When you’re about to install new software, just launch EULAlyzer, select Scan New License Agreement, and drag the big plus sign over the EULA before agreeing to it. (Copy and paste license agreements on Web sites into EULAlyzer.)

When you click Analyze, EULAlyzer searches the EULA for such give-away phrases as “third party," ”without notice,” “advertising,” and “promotional,” as well as Web site addresses. It ranks the EULA by the number and severity of such danger signs, and lists them all.

Click the arrow under Goto to see the suspicious phrase in context in the EULA.

Now you can install new software with greater confidence, even if you don’t wade through the license agreement word by word. However, I still recommend reading the EULAs of suspect programs, in addition to relying on EULAlyzer. It might be imperfect, and malware authors might get wise to EULAlyzer and change their terminology to duck under its radar.

EULAlyzer is free, and there’s also a paid version with greater capabilities. You can download EULAlyzer from the publisher, Javacool Software (who also publish SpywareBlaster), at http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/eulalyzer.html. As always, I encourage you to donate money to reward the authors and support their ongoing activities.

Another useful tool is EULAscan, a social networked site (http://www.eulascan.com) where users review and warn about EULAs. Enter the name of a product to see if its EULA has been evaluated, and even post your own critique.

Comodo (the Firewall, Not the Dragon)

If you use the Internet, you need a firewall for protection against hackers and malicious software. If you have your own router and hardware firewall, you’re covered. If you don’t, and you’re using Windows XP’s built-in firewall, you’re still half naked. So which of the many commercial, shareware, and freeware offerings should you choose? I’ll let those of you who didn’t read the heading squirm with suspense.

Symantec (Norton), McAfee, ZoneAlarm, and many other well-known publishers sell comprehensive internet security suites as well as single-purpose firewalls. They would be well worth the price if there were no cheaper alternatives. And isn’t that what you read my Tool Bar & Grill for?

There are many fine free firewalls. Rather than list or review all the better ones, though, I’ll cut right to the chase. Probably the best free firewall – according to many reviews, the equal of the best commercial ones – is Comodo (http://www.comodogroup.com). PC magazine made it the Editor’s Choice among free firewalls, well ahead of the better-known ZoneAlarm.

Comodo can automatically set itself up to deal with many common applications on your computer. When it does encounter a new request, its pop-up messages are clear and informative. It is highly configurable by those who know what they’re doing, and you can create complex custom rules. Most important of all, it’s very effective and secure, passing the experts’ tests with flying colors.

As with any firewall, Comodo has a learning curve. At first, it might bombard you with questions about which programs to allow access to the Internet or to your computer. But I would be suspicious of any firewall that didn’t do that. I’ve been using Comodo for a number of months, and am very pleased with its performance. It’s not a resource hog, either.

You might be confused initially by the Comodo Launchpad that opens when you click Comodo’s tray icon, but you'll get used to it. You have to go through the Launchpad to get into the firewall. The Launchpad centralizes control of all the Comodo software you install. Comodo also offers free antivirus, antispam, antiphishing, backup, and password management programs. (I have not used any of them, so I cannot recommend them.)

Here’s a tip I learned about the hard way (the only way I ever learn): If you’ve been using ZoneAlarm, it’s not enough to just disable it when you start using Comodo (or, perhaps, any other firewall). You must uninstall ZoneAlarm completely; I was unable to get on the Internet until I did.

Thanks for reading! Please post comments and suggestions below. And don’t forget to come back on November 25 for another interesting review.

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.

25 October 2006

#5. A Great Explorer Is Discovered

Marco Polo. Leif Ericsson. Christopher Columbus. Ferdinand Magellan. James Cook. Roald Amundsen. Robert Peary. Neil Armstrong. All were great explorers, whose courageous exertions shrunk our world.

Sometimes, however, great discoveries are born of sloth. That's how I came across another great explorer: the xplorer2 file manager. One day, while creating a lot of new folders, I tired of pressing File, New, New for each one. "Nu, nu," [Yiddish for "come on already"] I thought to myself, "there must be a better way!" So like Stanley finding Livingstone, I searched until I found xplorer2. It's miles beyond the familiar old Microsoft Windows Explorer for disk and file management.

Welcome back to the Tool Bar & Grill, where you can find another valuable new Windows utility or Web site on the 10th and 25th of every month.

Xplorer2 the Rescue

xplorer2's feature list is far too long to describe here. Like many file managers, xplorer2 comes in two versions: “lite,” which is free for private use, and “pro” shareware with richer features. If you know me, you've already guessed I'm using xplorer2 lite. I've been using it for a few years, and still have barely scratched the surface of its capabilities. My favorite and most frequently used features of the lite version (most of which are lacking in Windows Explorer) include these:

  • See the contents of two folders at once with dual folder panes. Further subdivide folder panes with tabs.
  • Copy or move files between panes with one key press.
  • Display folder sizes, including subfolders.
  • Synchronize two folders by date, file name, or contents, and review two folders’ contents together with mirror scrolling.
  • Select the drive to display on the tool bar, in the folder tree, or with shortcut keys.
  • See text and graphics, even play music and videos, in a preview pane.
  • Jump directly to favorite folders or files with bookmarks, including shortcut keys.
  • See the file size and date, total size of selected files, and drive free space in the status bar.
  • View file metadata in tool tips (including file names in compressed files).
  • Add comments and apply categories to files and folders, and search or sort them by these attributes and other extended file information.
  • Select and mark files with incredible flexibility through wild cards, filters, and more, and save selections for future use.
  • Copy file or folder information as text for pasting or printing (almost as good as Karen's Directory Printer).
  • Rename all selected files at once, according to a template you define.
  • Split files or shred (irretrievably erase) them.
  • Right-click a folder pane title bar to select any folder previously displayed in that pane.
  • Customize the layout, fonts, colors, and other display elements.
  • Save different display configurations and apply them at will.
  • And yes, one key press creates a new folder.

The list could go on and on. xplorer2 also is much faster than Windows Explorer in all its operations.

Here's how xplorer2 looks with horizontal dual panes (they can be vertical too):

Both versions of xplorer2 are available from the author at http://www.zabkat.com/ and from other download sites. The lite version is loaded with tools and shortcuts, and has nearly all the functionality I’ve ever wanted. If you use the lite version, I urge you to reward the author with a donation. For readers of "Jonathan's Tool Bar & Grill," the author has agreed to credit lite donations to the pro upgrade's purchase price; just mention my name.

The pro version has even more advanced capabilities, including:

  • Search within compressed files
  • “Deep” synchronization (includes subfolders)
  • Sort and search by multiple criteria
  • Find and clean out duplicate files
  • Formatted preview of Office and PDF files
  • Search in Office and PDF files using filters
  • Save display settings for each folder
  • And many more

There are many other capable free and shareware file managers, and everyone has a favorite. For example, old-timers who are nostalgic for the old DOS-based Norton Commander might appreciate Total Commander (shareware) or freeCommander or JCommander (both free). If you’re a Linux user, try the highly rated i.File (free). I recently read a warm recommendation of PowerDesk from a highly respected computer columnist. I checked out the free version, which looks similar to xplorer2, but found it inferior to xplorer2. For instance, it does not show folder sizes, has no shortcut keys for favorites, has no preview pane, and loses the focus when moving up the folder tree. It also irritated me by hijacking some associations (for example, double-click a folder in Windows Explorer or select the Control Panel, and it opens in PowerDesk, which loads slowly). And the free version shows annoying ads for the Pro version, which xplorer2 lite does not do. So for me, xplorer2 still gets two thumbs up.

Please post your comments below. And check back here on November 10 for another review of useful tools.

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.

10 October 2006

#4. Print File Lists and See the Time

Welcome back to the Tool Bar & Grill, where you can find a valuable new Windows utility or Web site twice a month.

George Prints His File Lists

George is a good ole boy. I think of George as a redneck – except he’s a Yankee, Jewish, well-read, cultured, and basically decent at heart. OK, so maybe he’s just a redneck wannabe, like me, with our shared love of country & western music. But if you cross George, like a redneck, he can be merciless.

I don’t worry about that anymore. I’m on George’s good side, ever since I solved a problem for him with Karen’s Directory Printer. This sophisticated tool does just what it says, and much more. You can print any information about any folder or the files in it (including subfolders and network drives), or save it to a file. You can filter the list, sort by name, extension, size, or date, and add some limited formatting.

I use Karen’s Directory Printer for many purposes, including printing the contents of my C&W MP3 discs for the CD liners. A number of similar utilities are available, but Karen’s is one of the slickest and most versatile I’ve seen.

You can get Karen’s Directory Printer for free at http://www.karenware.com/powertools/powertools.asp (Karen Kenworthy is a computer writer). While you’re at Karen’s site, scan the long list of other clever little utilities on offer. They all are offered for free, but donations are accepted by credit card or PayPal.

Got Time On Your Hands?

Another essential on all my computers is TClockEx, a free utility that enhances the Windows taskbar clock. Would you rather squint at the time…

…or really see the time, day, and date big and bold, in the format you choose, such as this:

With TClockEx, you can customize the time display to your heart’s content. You can specify the time and date elements to display, and set the font, size, color, and background (my scheme above is one example).

A configurable tool tip shows the full date. You can copy the date and time to the clipboard. TClockEx also can show memory usage in a bar across the bottom.

One click pops up a handy monthly calendar, whose appearance you also can change (and click actions are configurable, too). The right-click menu offers some handy shortcuts for arranging open windows, tool bars, and Windows notifications.

You can find TClockEx at the author’s site, http://www.rcis.co.za/dale/tclockex, or at PC World and many other download sites. Note: To donate securely by credit card or PayPal, open the credit card button on the author’s site in a new window (Shift-click in Internet Explorer) or new tab (Ctrl-click in Firefox or Opera). If you just click, the donations page is not secure.

That's it for now. Please post comments and suggestions below. And check back here on October 25 for another review of useful tools.

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.

25 September 2006

#3. I Know It's In Here Somewhere

Welcome back to my Tool Bar & Grill, where twice a month I report on useful Windows utilities or Web sites.

Bulletin: Synch Your Clock

Did you remember to set your clocks back on the night of September 30/October 1? Nut cases like me insist on near-perfect accuracy in timekeping, and fortunately these days it's a snap to do. The Internet offers many free utilities that synchronize your computer's clock with government and university atomic time servers world-wide. I've tried several, and most of them are easy to use. For example, Atomic TimeSync from http://www.analogx.com/ is about as simple as you can get, and Rocket Time from http://www.rocketsoftware.com/ also is very straighforward, while Dimension 4 from http://www.thinkman.com/ is a bit more versatile but with a more complicated interface. (Note: None of the clock-synch utilities I tried works through a proxy server.)

Kill the Puppy

Search tools have become routine fixtures on Windows desktops since Google made a big splash nearly two years ago through its expert PR campaign for its free Google Desktop Search utility. Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL rushed to release their own free desktop search tools. Meanwhile, Copernic Desktop Search has been quietly indexing my files for nearly four years.

Before other desktop search utilities became popular, the glacial Windows search tool, with its annoying bloodhound, was the main choice. Now you can forget about the pup, because searching your computer for any evasive bit of information has become fast and flexible. All the desktop search tools index everything on all your drives one time, and then maintain the index in the background during the computer’s idle moments.

Google Desktop Search is the most popular such tool, but Copernic Desktop Search is still my favorite. If you haven’t heard of Copernic, blame the publisher’s reticence in the PR arena, not the product. A number of reviewers have chosen the venerable Copernic over its newer rivals.

Now Copernic has just issued its brand-new version 2. I've been playing with it, and I am very impressed. Its superior features include:

  • Search by type of document (email, file, music, picture, etc.), or search all types at once. Either way, the number of hits of each type is shown.
  • The search results list is grouped, and search terms in the result titles are highlighted in different colors.
  • You can sort the search results on various keys, depending on the document type.
  • A preview window highlights the first occurrence of a search term in context in the selected result document. You can jump to additional occurrences in the preview window.
  • Email attachments are searched as well as the emails.
  • You can search browser favorites and history.
  • You can search metadata of Microsoft Office, Open Office, Word Perfect, graphics, music, program code, and many other types of files. You can also add new file types to index.
  • You can search networked drives.
  • You can refine your search with wild cards and with Boolean search operators, including OR, NOT, and NEAR.
  • You can save searches for future re-use.
  • Searching begins as you type ("incremental search"), so results are displayed quickly, and narrowed as you continue to type.
  • As you type, Copernic suggests completions for your query, and also offers query correction (“did you mean…?”).
  • The GUI is clear and highly customizable. Indexing rules are customizable, too.
  • There is no need for a browser or Internet connection, though you can search the Web through Copernic if you want. Copernic does not collect any data if you do search the Web. (Google insists on sending “anonymous” data to the mother ship, raising security concerns.)
  • An optional task bar search box provides instant results in a pop-up window.
  • An optional browser tool bar searches the Internet with multiple search engines (including Google, Yahoo, Ask, and others), returning more comprehensive results than Google alone.

Copernic is not without its shortcomings, of course, but it has fewer than most rivals. For instance, it indexes compressed files by their names only, not their contents, and it indexes PowerPoint text but not graphics. And it does not have a large developer community developing creative new plug-ins, as Google has (for example, a third-party Google plug-in indexes ZIP file contents).

Nevertheless, I am very satisfied with Copernic Desktop Search’s functionality and design, and I highly recommend trying out version 2 for yourself at http://www.copernic.com/.

If all you want to search is Outlook emails, however, you could consider Lookout, a free Outlook plug-in from Microsoft (look for it at www.microsoft.com/downloads). But I don’t like its geeky interface, its results list is not very informative, and it lacks a preview pane, so I still prefer the more flexible Copernic for searching emails.

However, another powerful rival just arose. Reviewers have regarded the X1 desktop search engine highly for a number of years, and it would have been the editors’ choice more often if it didn’t cost about $75. It’s also the basis for Yahoo’s desktop search offering. Recently, the publisher relented to competition and now offers the X1 Enterprise Client desktop search tool absolutely free. I’ve downloaded a copy (http://www.x1.com/), and I’ll report on it in a future column. For now, though, Copernic 2 remains my desktop search tool of choice.

Remember, you can post your comments and suggestions below. And if you like a shareware or donationware utility and use it beyond the trial period, please pay its publisher.

That's it for now. See you back here on October 10th for more gems from the Internet.

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.

10 September 2006

#2. We Don't Pay for Zip

Welcome back to the new Tool Bar & Grill, where twice a month I'll present my discoveries in Windows utility software and Web sites that can save time, enhance your computing environment, do something new, or maybe just raise a chuckle. I'll recommend both free and shareware utilities, but will favor freeware wherever it is available.

I can only report to you on the tools that I have encountered and tried. Do you hate a featured utility? Do you have a better one? Please feel free to post your comments and suggestions below. And if you like a shareware or donationware utility and use it beyond the trial period, please pay its publisher.

Free from Compression Oppression

With the plethora of free compression utilities out there, one might wonder why anyone would pay for a zipping program – and I imagine that very few do. A cursory search can turn up a couple of dozen pretty good free utilities for compressing and extracting files. (Most such utilities are free only for private, individual use, so organizations generally buy commercial utilities such as WinZip.) I haven’t tried them all, but among those I’ve tried or read about, my favorite is ZipGenius 6, a Swiss Army Knife of compression utilities.

Like every normal zip utility, ZipGenius compresses files in the standard ZIP format and extracts zipped files. Like most others, it offers shell integration, so that the zipping and extraction options appear on the right-click menu in Windows Explorer and compatible file management utilities. And like most others, ZipGenius also can encrypt compressed files and span disks (that is, save a large zip file in pieces on multiple floppy disks, flash disk keys, or other media of limited size). However, ZipGenius’s functionality goes beyond most of its rivals’.

ZipGenius saves to a large number of compressed file formats in addition to ZIP, including the new 7-Zip format (with significantly higher compression ratios), CAB (for distributing software), JAR, TAR, LZH, and more. It can create encrypted CZIP files using either the ZIP standard or the more advanced BlowFish, TwoFish, or AES algorithms. It reads and extracts a wide range of additional formats, including RAR, ARJ, ACE, and even CD and DVD image files in ISO9660 format.

ZipGenius presents a clear, helpful GUI, including wizards for common activities, and supports drag-and-drop operations. It also provides a built-in backup utility that creates a compressed backup file of the folders you choose.

ZipGenius can test and repair archive files, and can automatically add your signature (such as personal contact information) to every archive. It can acquire images from scanners, cameras, and other TWAIN devices and either compress them into an archive or create a self-playing slide show from them. You can view archived images as thumbnails. And ZipGenius integrates with your antivirus software to scan archives for viruses. ZipGenius is also highly configurable, and I have found it to be entirely reliable and trouble-free.

ZipGenius is donationware: It is completely free, but the publisher (M.Dev Software of Italy) welcomes voluntary contributions through PayPal. You can download ZipGenius at http://www.zipgenius.it or other software distribution sites (like Download.com, Tucows.com, MajorGeeks.com, and others, where it has earned high ratings).

P.S. In researching this column, I came across two other highly recommended compression utilities. IZArc’s compress and extract functions appear to be very robust and it handles the widest variety of formats, though it seems to have fewer extra features and a somewhat less friendly GUI than ZipGenius. 7Zip originated its eponymous tightly squeezed format, but it lacks many of ZipGenius’s bells and whistles.

That zips up this column. Check back here in two weeks for another cool utility!

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.

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25 August 2006

#1. That @#$%^& CAPS LOCK Key!

Welcome to my new Tool Bar & Grill, where I point you to great utilities and Web sites. I'll recommend both free and commercial utilities, but will favor freeware wherever it is available. If you like a shareware utility and use it beyond the trial period, please pay for it. Also, some free utilities are distributed as "donationware," and I urge you to send donations to such publishers if you like the software. That way you can guarantee me a continued supply of column fodder.

This column cannot be comprehensive; I can only report to you on the tools that I have encountered and tried. With your help, though, our entire community can benefit from a broader range of experience. So please feel free to post your comments and suggestions. Do you hate a featured utility? Do you have a better one? Or do you just want to kibitz? Write in and share it!

Today's featured utility is tiny but potent. How often do you hit the Caps Lock key accidentally, RESULTING IN A SENTENCES LIKE THIS? Or you tapped Insert when you meant Home, and overwrote your latest pearl of wisdom?

CFi Lockdown is the solution. CFi Lockdown plays the wave (.WAV) file of your choice whenever you press Caps Lock or Insert, warning you that you've hit the wrong key while typing merrily away. (It also works for Num Lock or Scroll Lock, though these are not as dangerous.) Here's a look at CFi Lockdown's simple, direct interface:

CFi Lockdown is completely free, and is available from Cool Focus International here.

Perhaps you'd like to find some cool .WAV files for CFi Lockdown to play (belch.wav, perhaps, or juicyfart.wav?). You could start your search at http://www.findsounds.com or http://www.audiosparx.com/sa/display/cat.cfm.

That's all for now. Be sure to come back later for more valuable utilities!

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill