Speed Launch is created by Microsoft’s Office Labs. The office labs is one experimental arm of Microsoft that is sometimes not too busy on the public side and develops products that one may not necessarily associate with the company. Speed Launch is perhaps one such example and is a program that has many other freeware equivalents.
Upon installation Speed Launch places a bulls eye looking icon on the desktop that stays on top of all windows but dims to stay as unobtrusive as possible. Using the win + c keys the program pops up a set of what it calls functions. The set of built-in functions can be activated by clicking on them. They allow for such things as searching for weather forecasts and wikipedia pages.
Being a launcher Speed Launch has an interesting way to make routine tasks easier. Dragging and dropping any shortcut, file or site favicon into the bulls eye allows the user to associate an intuitive keyword with it and to later use it to open the same program, document or website. Keywords can also be added manually via the program’s ‘Add Shortcuts’ menu (by right clicking on the bulls eye).
Speed Launch also supports more advanced functions. These are the equivalent of launching a program or website – that has a shortcut created in Speed Launch – with parameters. One example used in the video on the program’s website shows how by choosing a keyword followed by “.” (dot without quotes) one can make a function that loads a map of a certain location without the need to enter the map’s homepage and then typing the desired location. It is therefore and like any other program launcher a way to save time and key strokes. Another interesting feature built-in is what is called the MegaSearch. Typing megaseach. and a search term launches the query in bing.com, yahoo.com and google.com. Again something not readily associated with Microsoft of the past.
Office Labs calls Speed Launch a ‘prototype’ and requires the user to allow anonymous usage feedback, however I am not certain if this program is being very actively developed as it is termed a grassroots project that is a ‘direct result of employee initiative’.
KUninstall is described by its author as
…is a small, quick and powerful uninstaller
KUninstall runs on Windows 2000 and XP and provides a non-Microsoft alternative to the sometimes very slow add/remove programs feature of Windows.
It is a 377KB unzipped portable download that offers an unzip and run way to list all the programs installed on a computer and then uninstalling them as needed. It is also possible to browse and clean up the folder and registry items that are possibly left over by the program(s). Right clicking on any item provides the latter options and also an option to the uninstall quietly or without intervention, however this is not supported by all programs.
KUninstall also provides some additional information such as install date, these are available either in the programs columns or by choosing the detail info option when right clicking. One additional feature is the target like icon called Finder. Click on the Finder icon and drag the mouse to the icon of any running program or desktop shortcut to get some additional options and information. The filter makes finding an installed program easier, however this is not necessarily the fastest feature of KUninstall.
WWF has provided this pocket guide or short article on where we stand on the issue of climate change in 2009. It starts by quoting President Obama…
Climate and the economic crisis
“This is the generation that must stop the spread of the pollution that is slowly killing our planet… Rolling back the tide of a warming planet is a responsibility that we have to ourselves, to our children, and all of those who will inherit creation long after we are gone.” Barack Obama, Strasbourg, April 2009…read the rest
It is available both in a pure text HTML page or in PDF format. Well worth a read.
WinTray is a small and simple no install script or program built using the AutoIt scripting tool that works with Windows Vista and earlier Windows versions which allows programs to be minimized to the tray instead of the taskbar therefore saving taskbar space.
The icon used in the tray will be that of the minimized program’s executable. The default way of activating WinTray, after running it, is to hold the shift key while minimizing. Shift can be replaced by the Ctrl key as well.
WinTray is one of many scripts written using AutoIt, a similar program to AutoHotKey.
Image Analyzer is described by its author as
Advanced image editing, enhancement and analysis software…plus a number of advanced features not even available in professional photo suites
Indeed the strength of Image Analyzer is that it is somewhat more than an average freeware or shareware image editor. Its features include the likes of resize and crop but additionally also warp. Color correction, brightness and contrast tweaks are all included but again local contrast and statistical images enhancement provide more. A number filters are also available, some of which are specialized and require calculations that take more than a few seconds to complete on a relatively older XP install for example. Skeletonize, dilation and more fall under the morphing category or menu. There are other features that include yet more complex calculation like fourier and cosine transforms. Under the help menu an expression evaluator reads like a math calculator and allows the user to check values before using the update with expression option available for the transformations menu which is located like all other advanced features under the operations menu.
Documentation is very sparse and this is admitted on the author’s page, therefore many may not even be aware of how some of the features work and only an image expert may understand all that is available. Image Analyzer is an 841KB zipped, no install download and is good both for the relatively novice and professional image editor, but perhaps more the latter. It is also worth noting that a number of plugins are available, 3D modeling just to name one, along with some documentation on creating new ones.
ScrapBook is a Firefox addon that is perhaps the most useful written. Using ScrapBook it is possible to capture parts or all of a web page and to save it for future reference. It is also in one sense better than bookmarking a page because as much or all of the page is saved locally as it existed at the time of the capture. It is also an alternative to taking a screenshot because all the elements are saved in a text format and can therefore prove useful in the future.
ScrapBook’s options don’t end there. Once a page is captured, certain portions can be highlighted, an annotation or note can be added to them to ease future reference or certain paragraphs or elements can be removed by clicking on the Dom button. A page can actually be bookmarked and reside in ScrapBook’s folder as a straightforward bookmark as well. When clicking Alt+k to load ScrapBook in the Firefox sidebar all captures can be searched, not only by title but by the text inside them. Notes, which can be added by right clicking a captured item in the sidebar, add further information for and to captured pages. The Tools drop down menu that resides in the top right hand corner of the ScrapBook sidebar includes additional features such as import/export that essentially makes a back up of captures, calculation of size that provides an overview of the size of captured pages and many more.
As of this article the current version of this superior addon is 1.3.5 and works on Firefox 3.0 to 3.5.x.
esyPlanner is a freeware personal information manager that provides calendars, reminders (which it calls popups), notes and password storage.
The program doesn’t exactly have the best or cleanest of interfaces, which somehow mirrors the author’s website as well, however it is more than adequate as a PIM. Notes can be created by using the Microsoft outlook style side panel or bar. A note can be turned into an event so that a reminder can be set, they also include a number of fields to make categorization and future search useful, these include adding an attachment to a note as well. However there is kind of an overlap with what the program calls memo – accessible via its Windows menu. There is a similar confusion differentiating between the planner and the calendar. However after a few minutes of use esyPlanner does prove to be an acceptable and good alternative to the more known personal information managers. The strength of esyPlanner might actually lie in its search capability – accessible either via its Windows menu or by clicking F3. In my test the search provided quick results from all the notes fields that I had intentionally filled.
esyPlanner uses the SQLite database engine therefore at the very least one is not stuck with proprietary information storage.
PlainEdit.NET is described by its author as
PlainEdit.NET is a text editor for ANSI, UTF-8 and Unicode files
The list of features of PlainEdit.NET are impressive and it is a very complete text editor and notepad replacement. Its features include many of expected and common set like syntax highlighting for many languages and search and replace. But even those regular features are extended in that PlainEdit.NET suports find as you go style search ala Firefox – and only few other text editors. It has such additional features as the ability to choose text encased in HTML tags only. To bookmark a line to be able to return to it any time. To insert such things as the file path, date, special characters and the output of a command line argument. For the latter one can for example choose to output the dir (directory) command to get a list of files in a certain folder inserted into the document. PlainEdit.NET can also paste or input the current clipboard content in various positions in the open file. It can convert text to and from various formats including encoding and case conversion and even to join lines or to eliminate whitespaces and lines that match certain selectable criteria. Under the Extras menu the Configure Shortcuts submenu allows the user to edit or set keyboard shortcuts for such things as launching external applications.
PlainEdit.NET is one of the most feature rich, even beyond those mentioned in this review, and impressive text editors I have reviewed and used, it works well with ANSI, UTF-8 and Unicode files and it requires the host system to be running the 2.0 .NET framework but it is a 526KB RARed portable download. The accompanying help file however is in German only while the product site itself is available both in German and English.
CubicExplorer is described by its author as
CubicExplorer is a file manager which is aimed to replace Windows Explorer. It’s goal is to be easy and pleasant to use but still have enough power for more advanced usage.
CubicExplorer has an uncluttered interface with a relatively limited amount of features. It manages to give a clean look impression to the user and remains easy enough for simple use. It has the usual and needed features in the ability to set bookmarks and remember folders. Filters to show only certain files types within folders. A quick view for internal image previews and a built-in text editor. It is also possible to set transparency levels for the program and choose one of many themes included, both these settings and options are in the View menu. It is also possible to create one’s own theme and they can be featured on the app’s forum. CubicExplorer also supports many of the typical shortcut keys and command line variables in its address bar, however it also supports breadcrumb navigation.
The author has set up a roadmap detailing some of the features in the works. It is a registry free program and can be used without an installer in zip format. A number of screenshots are available on the program’s home page.