Friday, October 12, 2007

Windows Application Software Updaters

If you want to keep your Windows operating system and Microsoft Office applications up to date, then visit Microsoft Update regularly or configure your system to update automatically. That's easy but making sure all those non-Microsoft applications and little utilities installed on your PC are up date can be a seriously time-consuming chore, especially with those that seem to release updates on a weekly basis.

I've already mentioned the File Hippo Update Checker but a few others have appeared recently that do a bit more for you and may well be worth checking out…


AppSnap scans your PC and compares your installed applications against its database of latest version numbers. It'll then display all of your applications in a list, allowing you to download and re-install, upgrade or even uninstall them.

You can ask it to display a list of any applications that can be upgraded with both the current and possible version numbers. Just select those you want upgraded and click on the Upgrade button. AppSnap will then download them, uninstall the old version if required and install the new one for you.

The versions database is stored locally but it has a facility to allow you to download and update to the current version. You can even list those applications from its database that you don't have installed and install them if you want.


UpdateStar is a utility that lets you stay up-to-date with all of your personal software. With a database of over 80,000 freeware, shareware and commercial applications it covers a fair number of the applications that you're likely to have lurking around your hard drive.

UpdateStar can be set to do an automatic update search daily, weekly or monthly and will notify you when an update for one of your programs is available, offering you information and download options as well as licensing links in the case of a commercial product or update. it'll also let you modify or uninstall applications as well.

Both of the above utilities have their good and bad points and I found myself using both of them. I really like the way AppSnap lets you install multiple updates and it seemed the much faster of the two but it's less configurable and UpdateStar recognised far more of my installed applications. However, with UpdateStar you have to download and then install the updates manually so more ineraction is required.

In short, neither will do the full job for you as there will always be something you have that they don't have in their databases but they do help keep you up date, which will save you some time in the long run.

Related Posts: Software Update Checkers

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Clip It!

Typical! Having only just posted about capturing a web page as an image yesterday, I've spotted another free Mac OS X utility for this today.

Clip It! quickly captures and saves web pages into images for easy preview and presentation. No more browser scrolling and image stitching, it keeps the whole web page in a single image no matter how big it is. Images can be saved as JPEG, PNG or TIFF formats.

It opens the URL in its own Webkit mini-browser window, which you can choose from a range of standard sizes to match VGA, SVGA, XGA, SXGA, UXGA, HD 720, HD 1080, WSXGA+, WUXGA and WQXGA resolutions. There's also a menu to select the browser language if that's a requirement and it has a useful drawer for collecting images as you go.

Related Posts: How To Grab Web Page Screenshots

Monday, October 08, 2007

How To Grab Web Page Screenshots

There are loads of utilities available to help you capture screen shots of whatever is currently on your display but capturing shots of web pages isn't quite so simple. As soon as you notice those vertical or horizontal scroll bars, then you know that most screen capture utilities won't do the job in one go.

I've already covered free utilities like Gadwin PrintScreen, ScreenHunter, for Windows and SnapNDrag for Mac OS X but there are a few more and some of them are aimed specifically at capturing web pages. Not so long ago, you'd have to take multiple shots and try to stitch them together but not any more…

My Flickr Photosthumbalizer Online  Service - thumbalizer is an excellent and free web-based, web page capture service. You enter a URL, select whether you want to capture the screen or the full page, hit the thumb it button and it does the rest.

Once it's done it'll preview the captured image and give you links to download it at various resolutions - 320, 640, 800, 1024 or 1280 pixels wide or even custom. It even comes with a Bookmarklet link to make it easy to use. The only downside I can see is that you can only save as JPEG but apart from that it's a seriously useful site.

Pearl Crescent Page Saver Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible - Page Saver is a Firefox extension that lets you capture images of web pages. These images can be saved in PNG or JPEG formats. Options let you control whether images are captured at full size (which is the default) or scaled down to a smaller size. There's a Pro version available with a few extra bits of functionality but the basic version is free.

Paparazzi Apple Compatible - Paparazzi is a small utility for Mac OS X that makes screenshots of webpages. This very simple tool takes screenshots of websites which do not fit on one screen. You specify the desired width, minimal size, a delay if required and the URL. The program displays a preview and you can save the screenshot to PNG, JPEG, TIFF, or PDF. I've used it a couple of times and it seems to work fine.

WebShot Windows Compatible - WebShot allows you to take screenshots of web pages and save them as full sized images or thumbnails. Captured images can be whole or part page and can be saved in JPG, GIF, PNG, or BMP formats.

The freeware version comes with a demo of the command line interface, which can be purchased, and used to streamline the screenshot process on whole websites. The server edition of WebShot comes with a DLL that will allow you to embed WebShot technology in your own applications.

WebSnapr Online  Service - WebSnapr is another web-based screenshot service. However, it only handles certain sizes and can't capture the entire page if it's bigger than can be viewed on screen. Another downside is that it adds a "POWERED BY WEBSNAPPER.COM" line at the bottom of each image. That said, it's a fairly simple-to-use screen shot service that could easily do the job of some stand-alone tools.

PS Apologies for the lack of individual screenshots here but all of these tools take shots of other web sites so there's really not much to show. The one I did include was taken with thumbalizer and downloaded at a custom width of 200 pixels.

Related Posts: Screen Capture Tools

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

iPod Death Predictor

Ever wanted to create a "Dead Pool" for iPods or just fancy finding out how long your precious little music player has left to live?

Well, take a visit to the iPod Deathclock, where you can enter your iPod serial number, answer a few simple questions like "how often do you use it and where?", "how many times have you dropped it?" or "has it ever got wet?" and then you'll get a nice big countdown timer to when it's likely to die on you and some advice on battery life.

Zoho Adds Database And Reporting Tools

Online application suite Zoho has added database management and reporting to its range of tools. Zoho DB & Reports is a web-based relational database manager and reporting tool. With this you can…
  • Create, edit and access your databases from anywhere.
  • Convert spreadsheet files (.xls) to online databases.
  • Import .csv, .tsv files and manage your data and reports over the web.
  • Build reports using a Drag and Drop interface.
  • Create charts, pivot table, summary and other wide-range of reports.
  • Query your database using any known SQL dialect to create powerful and flexible reports.
  • Share databases and reports for collaboration with others.
  • Embed reports and queries into websites or blogs.

Since they already have Zoho Creator for online database creation, I'm not sure what extra benefits this brings other than a much more user-friendly or at least less geek-oriented interface but it is fairly nice to use.

Zoho certainly seems to be shaping up to give Microsoft and Google some decent competition in the office tools market and is well worth investigating.

Related Posts: Online Office Tools

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Image Resizing Grows Up (or Down)

Rsizr is a new, Flash based image processing site that does just one thing - it resizes an image. However, as well as allowing you to select the standard, lossy resizing algorythm it also offers the ability to use a new one called “seam carving”. Seam carving analyses the image content and divides it into slices of interesting and uninteresting bits. If you're reducing the size, it can remove uninteresting sections and keep the detailed bits intact and. vice versa, if enlarging, then it can insert slices that match the colour and texture of the surrounding area. For example, the follwoing image is followed by one I reduced vertically using the new algorythm…



It's pretty obvious that the process used above has removed a lot of the flat areas from the background and left the detail. Another nice touch is the ability to paint over an area and either preserve or remove it during the operation, which means you get to decide what is and what isn't interesting.

Rsizr can process JPEG, GIF or PNG images and save as JPEG or PNG. It doesn't allow you to load images from photo sharing sites like a lot of the other image manipulation tools do but it does what it does pretty well and maybe that functionality will follow in time.