30 March 2008

#64. Making Much From Little: Text Expanders

Managing the Tool Bar & Grill requires lots of hard work and long hours. So a lazy guy like me looks for anything that makes the work go by faster and easier. That’s how I became a utilities maven to begin with, long before there was a Tool Bar & Grill. And the wonderfully generous programmers who populate the Internet keep coming up with new ways to make our lives more pleasant. Special guest blogger Mark Lautman probably is lazy too, but still industrious enough to try out equation editors for our benefit (see below).

Spill Your Heart Out Faster

Over the years, my favorite time- and finger-savers have included typing expanders. These programs make lots of text out of very little. I first discovered these utilities about 25 years ago, way back when I bought a simple program called Jot! (if memory serves me) that spilled out whatever text string I attached to an abbreviation. For example, I specified in Jot! that when I typed “jlp” followed by a space, punctuation, or Enter, it should replace those letters with my full name.

Over the intervening years, I have used a number of text expanders. Many of you enjoy the same function in Microsoft Office through AutoCorrect (which corrects your typing automatically when you insert a space, punctuation mark, or Enter) and AutoText (which requires a key press). (In Word 2007, these functions have transmogrified into “Building Blocks” under “Quick Parts.”) No doubt you have missed this delightful functionality in your plain-text editor, Web browser, instant messenger, and other programs.

PhraseExpress is the best text expander I have seen, and version 5 was recently released. It is the Swiss army knife of its genre, providing a variety of time-saving functions in addition to expanding your abbreviations in any Windows application.

I have previously recommended PhraseExpress, and you can read my description of that earlier version in post #24. The new version 5 is even better.

To start with, PhraseExpress offers to import your existing MS Office AutoCorrect and AutoText entries. It also offers to turn off these features in Word so an abbreviation won’t be expanded twice. PhraseExpress also comes with its own libraries of common phrases and misspellings, and more can be downloaded from its Web site. You can organize phrases in a hierarchical folder tree.

Among its extended functions, PhraseExpress can string multiple phrases together, accept input manually or from the clipboard, add dynamic values (such as the date or time), and can launch programs or open Web sites from abbreviations. It provides a wide range of automation macros, too, and is highly configurable. PhraseExpress also maintains a clipboard cache, though I still recommend ArsClip for that purpose. Here’s how the main phrase management window looks:

PhraseExpress works with all Windows versions, including Vista. It is free for personal use, and there lies my main complaint. The Web site says that “PhraseExpress recognizes if you are using phrases belonging to commercial activities without a valid license.” I don’t know what those phrases are, but while using a previous version, PhraseExpress started nagging me that I appeared to be using it for commercial purposes and should buy a license. My main use is for writing these blog posts, and I can assure you that this is very far from being a commercial venture! (A commercial license costs $39.95 until March 31, and $49.95 thereafter. There is a network version too.)

The free Lifehacker utility Texter is the best potential alternative to PhraseExpress. Though I have not yet tested it, Texter appears to be a fine text expander with some fancy scripting capabilities – but it lacks the breadth and depth of PhraseExpress’s functionality and usability, and does not import existing MS Office phrase libraries. I have found a number of other text expanders, but most look a bit primitive compared to PhraseExpress. Some macro scripting tools, such as AutoHotKey, also can expand text, but again without the bells and whistles.

If you use Linux, the only text expander I know of is Snippets, described in Lifehacker.

Try Titan Backup Business

Last week I offered five free licenses for Titan Business Backup, the network-capable version of my favorite shareware backup utility. I have not yet decided to whom to award these licenses, so you still have a few days to request one. Read post #63 for details, and then write to me!

Now let’s see what treats Mark has for the math whizzes and wannabes among us.

Let's Do the Math

by Mark Lautman

"You're still here?"

This was how one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century greeted me after reviewing my first-semester grades at graduate school. That comment didn't deter me; I completed a degree in applied mathematics with only modest neural damage. Nevertheless, he did me a great injustice by allowing me to continue. He should have said, “Listen, math isn't your strong point. Personal computers are the next big thing. Why don't you program an operating system for them? You could call it ‘MS-DOS.’”

Regardless, I've always been fascinated by mathematical equations – wondering what they really mean (like my telephone bills). If you do technical work on computers, you've no doubt come across the need to compose equations. In this post we'll go through some of the available software.

The big word processors, Microsoft Word and OpenOffice, have their own integrated equation editors. Both make it easy to insert an equation into text, and to insert cross-references to the equation (such as "See equation 1.1"). OpenOffice Formula has an advantage in that you can also type equations in a composition window, which avoids the large number of clicks with a graphical editor (although it requires a true mathematician to decipher OO's cross-referencing capability).

A much more intuitive equation editor is MathCast (Windows). This is one of those utilities that is so good I wonder why it's free. It's very easy to use. The Fourier Transform in the illustration above took me half the time using MathCast compared to OpenOffice Formula, and that included learning how to use the software!

Some web browsers can display equations as text, not just graphics. The World Wide Web Consortium has a specification for composing equations using XML. You can compose the equations with a text editor, or export them from a utility such as MathCast.

The advantage to this approach is that when a user increases or decreases the size of the text, the equation scales accordingly.

LaTex isn't a utility – it's all of eternity. LaTex was one of the first successful publishing products to separate content from formatting, and provides the most comprehensive features for creating technical manuscripts. Marking up for LaTex can be difficult, and there are many online and free utilities to help you compose the equations and then paste the resulting LaTex statements into your project. The Hamline University Physics Department has an online Latex equation editor for just this purpose.

Another free utility is TeXaide (Windows), which is a point-and-click editor. When you copy the graphical equation, the programs pushes the text-based representation into the clipboard, which you can paste into a LaTex project. —Mark Lautman

That wraps up another long, hard day for the lazy staff of Jonathan's Tool Bar & Grill. We hope you have enjoyed the fruits of our labors, and will drop in every week for more. Don’t forget to tell all your friends about us too, and to visit our advertisers. And please feel free to share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below or writing to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.

23 March 2008

#63. World Ruler and Window Manager

Things keep hopping at the Tool Bar & Grill, even while I sweep Louise away for a beach resort weekend. After I describe my latest utility discoveries, Linux rabble-rouser Mark Lautman explains the wonders of window managers.

Where’s a Ruler When You Need One?

Sometimes the little things drive you crazy. And sometimes it’s the big things. Heaven knows that sitting at home on Saturday nights and watching me write my blog could have sent the lovely, long-suffering Louise to the brink of madness, if she were not so patient. In fact, as you can see here, Louise really did reach the end of her tether this weekend:

Another little thing that can make you nuts is measuring things on your computer screen. Measurements can be crucial when you’re laying out a brochure or newsletter, designing a Web site, or creating fine art on your computer. Many’s the time I held a wooden ruler up to my monitor.

Now comes JR Screen Ruler from Spadix Software to save your sanity. This simple, absolutely free utility displays a ruler on your screen.

Drag it next to whatever you want to measure. Its simplicity belies the Screen Ruler’s versatility. You can adjust the ruler’s size with the slider, and you can flip it to vertical. You can measure in inches, centimeters, picas, or pixels (and specify the number of pixels per inch), and mark the center point.

The paid version, JR Ruler Pro, offers even greater capabilities.

Special Offer: Titan Backup Business for Free!

As you may know, my pick for the best shareware local backup program is Titan Backup (see post #40, 7 October 2007). Titan Backup has a big brother, Titan Backup Business. This backup solution provides both central server and client workstation software for securing the data on multiple desktop and laptop computers over the Internet, regardless of location. Based on the publisher’s description and my experience with the single-user version, it appears to offer impressive functionality at a reasonable price.

I can’t recommend this program personally, because I have not yet had a chance to try it out for myself (though I plan to soon). Meanwhile, however, Titan publisher Neobyte Solutions has made a generous offer to Tool Bar readers only. I have five free keys for Titan Backup Business, each good for up to 10 workstations.

All you have to do to get one of these five free registration keys is to write to me at jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com and explain why you need one, and how many computers you are responsible for. If I pick your request, I will send you the registration keys and the download location – and I also will ask you to report your impressions of the software back to me after a few weeks of use. Your reports will form the basis of my future review of this program. (Please don’t bother asking if you don’t manage several computers at least.)

So get the ball rolling. Write to me now for your free copy of Titan Backup Business, courtesy of Neobyte Solutions.

And now for Mark’s amusing explication of Linux window managers…

Window Shopping

by Mark Lautman

Apathy. It's everywhere. To test how apathetic the customers in the Linux Room are, I tried to start a riot. “From now on,” I declared, “nobody can say anything here without submitting their words in writing first to me.” Everyone kept talking. “Excuse me, is anyone paying attention? I said, all discussions must be approved by my censor.” No reaction. “Not only that, but I have wiretapped all of your phones at home with live feeds into criminal prosecutors.” Nobody flinched.

Geez, do I have to do everything myself around here? I went outside and picked up a rock. “Oh yeah?” I yelled. “Well, the Tool Bar isn't going to take away my freedom of speech!” I tossed the rock through the window, shattering it and my reputation into shards of glass.

So now I have to go look for a new glass window. While I'm shopping for windows, I might as well shop for some Linux windows as well.

First, a few words about windowing. There are several layers between what you see on the screen and what goes on inside the computer. There is the video hardware. On top of that there is a window server that gives commands to the hardware. On top of that there is the window manager, which gives the appearance and behavior to the desktop. On top of that you have the desktop environment, which is a collection of programs. All this is transparent to Windows and Mac users, but it is all unashamedly exposed in Linux.

Most Ubuntu installations have the two popular desktop environments: Gnome or K. (The screen shots from my postings are mostly from Gnome.) These are great, but they are bloated and work slowly on machines with limited memory. The alternative window managers do a good job of letting you pick and choose the features you want. The fewer features you enable, the faster you machine works. I find the same works for my own brain.

Xwinman has a list of links to an enormous number of Linux window managers. The leanest window manager is Fluxbox. With Fluxbox you can fully configure the windows' behavior: shortcut keys, mouse-overs, transparencies, and decorations.

When you install and run Fluxbox, you get the following:

A lot of adjectives come to mind when you see Fluxbox for the first time, and “useful” isn't one of them. Nevertheless, when you invest some time into the configuration files, you can create some impressive effects. Here is what the Fluxbox desktops in the Linux Room look like:

Note the completely transparent terminal in the upper left-hand corner.

Windows users can also take advantage of Linux-looking desktops by using Blackbox For Windows. Because this utility runs on top of Windows, you won't see much improvement in performance, but the behavior and the appearance of the desktop is much more impressive.

Mark Lautman

Thank you all for visiting the Tool Bar & Grill and the Linux Room. I’ll look forward to seeing you back here for more great utility reviews every week. Please feel free to share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below or writing to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.

15 March 2008

#62. A RAM Cleaner That Really Works

Welcome back to the Tool Bar & Grill, where we search through the Internet to find the best utilities and Web sites, and hand them to you on a silver platter. Today’s utility is a strong shot for weak computers, and it is chased with a rundown of the most important literature for document authors by Mark Lautman.

How To Cope When Memory Fails
If you search the Web, you will find dozens of free memory “optimizers.” These utilities claim to free up unused random access memory (RAM, which is your computer’s fast working memory) and/or defragment it. The more available RAM, the faster the computer. However, many experts say these RAM boosters do not work, and might even do more harm than good.

In fact, Microsoft Windows generally does a fine job of managing RAM. If a utility frees up RAM, it takes that memory away from a program that needs it. Windows might then have to use part of the hard disk as overflow RAM space, and the hard disk is much slower than RAM. So when I suggested in recent comments on other Web sites that I know of a RAM utility that really works, some techno-snobs derided the idea. Techno-snobs, eat your words!

Instant Memory Cleaner (freeware for Windows XP and Vista) actually is only a convenient, easy-to-use front-end GUI (graphical user interface) for the ClearMem (XP) and FreeMem (Vista) commands, which otherwise can only be executed from the DOS command line. Through these commands, Instant Memory Cleaner slaps each running program back down to its minimum RAM size. (This is more a bit effective in XP than in Vista.)

This trick is useful only for computers with limited RAM that tend to lock up or crash due to insufficient RAM or memory conflicts. If you have enough RAM (generally, 1 GB for XP systems and 2 GB for Vista), you don’t need Instant Memory Cleaner. And buying more RAM, if you can, is better than futzing around with utility programs.

Until recently, I was using an older Windows XP laptop with only 512 MB of RAM, which sometimes froze or crashed when RAM was inadequate. I intended to get a new laptop soon, so I didn't want to invest in more RAM. Instant Memory Cleaner solved the problem.

Of course, your programs will fill up the RAM again in a short time, if you keep using them. But this utility helps prevent a freeze when you see a RAM crisis coming. This gives you time to close some applications or reboot your system gracefully.

Instant Memory Cleaner also puts an icon in your system tray (a.k.a. the notification area) that constantly reports on the amount of used and free RAM.

So if your budget is as limited as your RAM, try Instant Memory Cleaner – and save up to buy some more memory soon.

And now for a special literature review from technical maven Mark Lautman.

Goldilocks and the Three Specs

by Mark Lautman

“Oh, but Grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have,” said Little Red Riding Hood. “The better to eat you with,” replied the wolf as he pounced.

Then the hunter came into Grandma's house. He took a pair of scissors, and began to cut open the stomach of the sleeping wolf. When he had made two snips, he released Little Red Riding Hood. He made two snips more, and released Grandma. Little Red Riding Hood put large stones into the wolf's belly, and when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so heavy that he collapsed at once, and fell dead.

So goes the ending of Grimm's classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. (A very good collection of these tales is here. Many parents read these tales to their children as bedtime stories – an abominable (or, in the wolf's case, abdominal) practice. These stories have no relation to reality. The ending is always good, the adults and animals are vilified, and the stories agitate children with their monsters and beasts. It's time for parents to join the modern age and read to their offspring literature that has lasting value… such as file specifications.

Here are my must-have recommendations of file format specs for any toddler:

Web Pages

The HTML specification from the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) is the absolute source for the HTML file format. If you follow the syntax and structure, you can rest assured that your page will display properly in every browser.
The CSS specification, also from the W3C, is the companion to the HTML spec: iron-clad rules for cascading style sheets that make your pages look spectacular with low maintenance effort.

The XML specification sets down the law for an XML file. Because reading applications such as web browsers are particular when it comes to loading XML files, it's very important to play by the rules. This spec also includes the syntax for a DTD (Document Type Definition).

Once you make an XML file, you need to do something with it. If you want to make a PDF file, you'll need the XSL specification, which details all the formatting options for text and pages. Rendering engines such as Apache's Formatting Objects Processor use this spec to turn XML files into PDFs.

Office Applications

WordprocessingML is the open-source file format for Microsoft Word documents. The historical importance of this specification cannot be overstated: it is the first time Microsoft placed some of its most treasured assets into the public domain. I couldn't find the specification itself on Microsoft's Web sites, but another very good source is here. With this specification, you can put your XML file through a rendering engine such as Saxon and generate Word files without the big price tag for Office!

OpenDocument is the specification for OpenOffice documents. It provides the details you need to create a spreadsheet, text file, presentation, drawing, or math formula that can be displayed in OpenOffice. This spec is very comprehensive, although not complete and could use some editing.

Rich Text Format

RTF isn't as popular as it used to be. (My sister tells me that this is still the format of choice when sharing between WordPerfect, Word, and some Mac users.) Nevertheless, if you get an old RTF file that you can't open, you may need to do some surgery that requires the specification, which you can find here.

Portable Document Format

Weighing in at 1,300 pages, the Adobe PDF specification is useful for learning the mechanics and limits of the almost universally recognized PDF file format.


The SVG specification lists all the features available for scalar vector graphics. If you've had a painter in your home that didn't follow directions (“paint this wall yellow, that wall green”), expressing yourself in the language of SVG may get you better results.

Lastly, the PNG specification explains the bits and bytes of this compressed graphic format.

Let's all hope that the current generation of young parents will abandon the model of Grimm's fairy tales, and introduce their children to literature that is realistic, providing hope with limitations, painting satisfying outcomes to life's difficult challenges. “Goldilocks tried the XML spec, but it was too restrictive. She tried the HTML spec, but it was too lax. She tried the XHTML 1.0 transitional spec, and it was just right.” —Mark Lautman

I hope you’ll come back for more great utility reviews every week, and bring all your friends! Please feel free to share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below or writing to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.

09 March 2008

#61. Someday You'll Thank Me For This

And that day will come sooner rather than later. At the Tool Bar & Grill, we’re here to help you. Today I’ll tell you about a Web site that looks and feels bad but really is good for you, and some useful utilities for those with limited computing resources. And Linux guru Mark Lautman will help you find files you forgot you had.

Make XP Think It’s Vista
I admit it, my memory just isn’t what it used to be… in fact, it never was. Insufficient memory also can plague computers. If you’re running Windows XP on a computer with 512 MB RAM or less, you might get that sluggish feeling too.
If your computer is memory-challenged but you have a big USB flash disk (preferably 1 GB or more), you can be rightly jealous of Vista ReadyBoost. This Windows Vista feature uses the flash disk as extra computer RAM. It’s not as fast as onboard memory, but it’s usually way faster than a swap file on a hard disk.
Now you can enjoy the same benefit with
eBoostr. This new utility for XP also uses a flash disk (USB version 2) or any other removable media as extra RAM. The free trial version works for four hours after each reboot; the full version ($29) is unlimited. I have tried eBoostr on my XP laptop, and it really works. It is a good stop-gap solution that can help tide you over until you get your new, souped-up computer.

A Reference Library At Your Fingertips
When you need reference information, it’s easier to get it all in one place. Sure, there are encyclopedias like Britannica (I’m wary of Wikipedia), dictionaries (make merry with Merriam-Webster), and government information portals (including the CIA World Fact Book and UN Data). Sure, you can get quick facts as well as news, sports, and weather reports at a plethora of informative specialty sites.
For fast facts on any subject, I turn first to refdesk.com. This cluttered, intimidating site has information, or links to information, on just about everything you want to know. When I don’t know where to start with a research question, I start with refdesk. Think of a fact, datum, conversion, translation, or any question, and refdesk knows where to find the answer.
The top of the refdesk page starts with current news and topical briefs, flanked by the most popular search, news, and reference links:

Scroll further down, and you’ll reach a three-column forest of links to more informational resources than you can shake a mouse at:

This is just a fraction of refdesk’s offerings. So next time you need to find something out, start at refdesk.
Speaking of finding things out, here’s Mark Lautman on how to find things in Linux.

You Can Use It, If You Can Find It
by Mark Lautman
No relationship is perfectly symmetric. When any two people form a partnership, one is usually smarter, stronger, wiser, wealthier, or more ambitious. In the case of Jonathan and myself, I'm none of the above. Take the example of orderliness. Just last week I went into the front room of the Tool Bar & Grill and asked, "Jonathan, do you have some peanuts?" "Sure," he replied. "They’re right on the counter next to the sink." The following day I said, "Uh, do you have some straw?" "No problemo, it’s in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator."
In contrast, this morning he ventured back to the Linux Room and asked, "Where is the two-ton elephant that we borrowed from the circus for last week's party? They want it back." "Yeah... uh... the elephant," I replied. "I know it's here somewhere. Let's see, it's not in the rest room, and it's not in the kitchen. Listen, let me hunt around for it, and I'll get right back to you."
It's not easy to lose an elephant in an intimate and cozy bar, but you sure can lose files in Linux and not find them. Nevertheless, like any worthwhile craft, searching for files and elephants takes time and patience. Let's review what's available for Linux.
The Gnome desktop that comes with most Ubuntu downloads has an indexing tool called Tracker. It indexes text files, PDFs, OpenOffice files, and file names. However, the display is very abbreviated. There is no opportunity to sort or filter by extension, file name, file type, or other customary features.

The Gnome file search is a bit better when it comes to display, but it can't drill into non-text files.
Google search toolbar is available for Linux. It indexes all the necessary files and gives a familiar Googlie-ish presentation. Nevertheless, a table format with sorting and searching within results is missing.
The KDE desktop has a complete searching tool called kfind that can do full-text searches inside PDFs and OpenOffice files. It includes many switches available from the Linux find command. You can also save your searches as a text file.

The most full-featured search tool is Searchmonkey. Available for Linux and as source code for Windows and Mac, this utility is a true front-end for the Linux find command. It also includes a regular expression builder that helps you design file names that match specific patterns. Similar to kfind, you can save your searches as CSV files, and sort them by the customary fields.

However, Searchmonkey doesn't search for content within non-text files like PDF and OpenOffice. Hopefully Searchmonkey will come out with an enhancement to drill into non-text files. Until that happens, we'll need to find the two-ton elephant using sight, sound, and (yuck) smell. —Mark Lautman

I hope your visit to the Tool Bar & Grill has been both satisfying and healthful. Do come back next week and every week for more generous helpings, and tell all your friends! If you have suggestions or questions, please share them with us all by clicking on “comments” below or, if you prefer privacy, by writing to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.

02 March 2008

#60. Best Free PDF Yet

Howdy once again from the Tool Bar & Grill, where the search for better utilities and Web sites never ends. We have found some great free solutions today, too.

In my technical writer role, I frequently need to convert documents to PDF (Portable Document Format) (first discussed in post #54, 20 January 2008). My PDFs must include bookmarks (an outline pane with links to chapters and sections) and working links for Table of Contents entries and cross-references.

Best PDFs from the Best Free Office Suite

The gold standard for creating and editing PDFs is, indisputably, Adobe Acrobat. It does just about everything (though with more than a few annoyances, too). If you don’t have several hundred dollars for Acrobat, many cheaper PDF creation tools vie for your attention. Leading packages that come close to Acrobat’s feature set, such as Jaws PDF Creator and Nitro PDF Professional, can cost from $50 to $100.

Many other PDF programs are offered absolutely free, but their functionality is limited. Notably, I have not heard of any free PDF authoring tool that can create bookmarks and links. (I plan to evaluate free PDF creators in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.) Until now, that is.

The surprising source of free, almost-full-featured PDFs is OpenOffice.org. We introduced you to this free, open-source productivity suite last week (post #59). OpenOffice is complete enough, and good enough, to rival Microsoft Office, and is largely compatible with MS Office document formats.

OpenOffice includes an “Export As PDF” feature. I tried it out with a Microsoft Word document, and was very impressed by the results. The Export As PDF command opens a PDF Options dialog box that offers many of the principal settings that Acrobat provides, including creating bookmarks.

Exporting to PDF was fast and trouble-free. The resulting PDF file looked good, and included both working bookmarks and cross-reference links in text. What was missing, unfortunately, was live links in the Table of Contents. This might send some authors back into Acrobat’s embrace, while others might say agree with Meatloaf that two out of three ain’t bad – especially for free.

If you need to make PDFs of your documents with live bookmark and cross-reference links, and you don’t mind the absence of Table of Contents links, OpenOffice is the free solution you have been looking for. It’s a big download, as befits a full office suite, but well worth its price (grin).

How Fast Is Your Connection?

Is your ISP (Internet service provider) giving you all the bandwidth you are paying for? A number of helpful Web sites offer to measure the speed of your broadband connection. The best and nicest-looking one I have found so far is Speedtest.net. Speedtest displays your download and upload rates with attractive speedometer dials and digital displays.

Better yet, you can take choose from a large number of servers all over the world, so if you’re outside the United States – where most other such sites’ servers are located – you can still get accurate results (though the highest concentrations of Speedtest servers are in the US and Europe).

Speedtest offers some other nice features. For instance, you can compare your current test to your previous results and to those of other Web surfers, and even download your test history to a file in the universal CSV format.

(The Internet also offers a plethora of downloadable utilities for displaying your connection statistics, and I plan to review and recommend some in a future post.)

And now, holding court as usual back in the Tool Bar & Grill’s Linux room, Mark Lautman updates us on Linux font managers and emulators. Take it away, Mark…

Talk Tough, Look Nice

by Mark Lautman

"It has come to our attention that the activities in the Linux Room exceed anything that can be considered chaste, even in these days of excessive materialism and debauchery. Therefore, the City Council has resolved that all individuals involved in said institution shall cease and desist from immoral activities, or face potential fines and imprisonment."

I was shocked and disappointed when I received this official letter. It's not the threats that bother me. Running a below-the-radar blog on Linux carries its inherent risks. What frazzled me was the choice of fonts our city fathers used. It was a standard sans-serif glyph that you see on ninety percent of the world's web pages. I think I deserve something a bit nicer. Not wanting to be combative, I'm going to send them an invitation to our weekly party just to show them how nice a crowd we are. An invitation needs lettering with character, and this brings us to the subject of font selection.

While preparing for this article I was confident that I would have lots of utilities to describe. The Internet lists at least ten font management utilities for Linux. How disappointed I was to find out that most of them don't work. (Whenever anyone offers a utility that needs to be "compiled from source," don't even stop and listen.) Here are the two I found that work very well.

Opcion (Windows, Java) is an easy-to-use font viewer that lists all your fonts and a sample text string. You can also modify the text string.

Another font viewer is gfontview (Linux-Gnome). This viewer has the same functionality as Opcion, but I found it a bit harder to use.

Hopefully the City Council will rescind its resolution and join us in the fun next week!

More Crossover Antics

In post #48, I brought up the sensitive topic of using emulators to run operating systems. I have two updates.

The first is Cygwin, a mature and stable emulator that lets you use Linux commands on Windows. Below is the output from the cat command on a text file.

For those who want to get used to using the Linux terminal, this is a great way to go. In addition, Linux users typically use cygwin to type commands into Windows and avoid using the mouse and menus.

A few days ago Jonathan flagged me to andLinux. This is an absolutely amazing and painless way to run Linux on top of Windows. I installed the abbreviated version that uses XFCE desktop. I was easily able to view my c:\temp directory in both Windows and Linux.

You can also install the full-blown KDE desktop, which contains all of the Ubuntu goodies (or bloat, depending on how you look at things). andLinux includes a network connection between your Windows and virtual Linux machine, so you can share files between them. Furthermore, any application you run from andLinux opens in a Windows window. It's the most seamless virtualization I've seen so far. —Mark Lautman

Thanks for dropping in at the Tool Bar & Grill. I’ll look forward to seeing you back here again next week, when Mark and I will be dishing up more tasty delights from the Internet. Please bring all your friends, and don’t forget to help keep this blog going by visiting our advertisers.

Have a question or suggestion? Let us know about it by clicking on “comments” below or, if you prefer privacy, by writing to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.