Digsby, The All In One Online World

Digsby is one of the newer ways to communicate with friends and colleagues across different protocols. It has been available to the world for around a year or so. Unlike the somewhat disappointing and overly long in alpha or in beta Trillian the builds or versions appear quickly and work pretty well.

Digsby requires a separate sign up to keep track of your different logins and accounts. Some privacy concerns are obvious here but are addressed as best as possible on a ‘Security Practices’ page. Over all a good product with responsive support and continuous development, at least at the time of this writing.

The protocols supported are as follows AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, ICQ, and Jabber in the IM department; Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL/AIM Mail, IMAP, and POP for email checking and notification; and Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn for social network updates and their respective chats. One of the most interesting aspects is a publicly accessible Wishlist that includes stats and votes to prioritize user input. Some of the current highly rated wishes are multi-person conversations and plug-in support. Of note is that audio and/or video chat is not natively supported but the program launches Tokbox, which can be accessed within the conversation by clicking the video button, where a new window to the TokBox service is generated and is accessible via a link to the friend at the other end of the conversation.

First start requires signing up for the aforementioned account and adding the respective protocol logins (see image below). One very user friendly feature of Digsby that should be mentioned is that if a conversation is minimized any new arriving message is not only viewable via a small popup near the bottom of the screen but it is also possible to reply using only that popup without maximizing the program. Very handy for keeping distractions to a minimum.

digsby

Digsby is freeware but the developers readily admit to the need for a revenue model and are trying to keep it to unobtrusive measures like a Yahoo toolbar and that may even be an opt-in at installation. Check out the complete feature list here. It is currently available for Windows but as many of the other Wishlist items Mac and Linux versions are coming soon. Sign up here to get notified and perhaps further encourage the work they are doing to make those versions.

Tagging And Organizing Non-Media Files

There are many tools available to organize media, audio mainly, files. Mp3Tag and MediaMonkey being just two that support tagging music files among other features. One area that is not as populated is a desktop application that supports tagging files of any kind.

Ultrafolder, now defunct, was one such promising application. Upon installation a shortcut would be placed on the desktop and any file, be it music, word or image that was dragged to the shortcut would launch the program and allow the addition of tags. The only negative aspect that I can think of was that all the tagged files would reside in a single folder, otherwise I found it very useful and bug-free. Ultrafolder existed for a while under an expiring beta @ ultrafolder.com, but after the author discontinued development, due to lack of interest as he put it, the executable would only prompt for an update check and no longer launch. A very unfortunate decision by the author in my opinion.

In my search I have come across another app, it is called tag2find. Its development seems to have slowed since it initial launch and even though it is promising and with more features than Ultrafolder it has the disadvantage of needing to run in the system tray to monitor folders and also needing to be installed as a Windows service. It does have advantages, of course, and among them is the ability to move any tagged files and since it runs on a NTFS volume the meta information is easily carried over.

My search for similar apps continues, if you know of any please leave a link and a comment.

A Thought On Google Analytics

Being a rather late user or adapter of Google Analytics I was amused to find the following question and answer while searching and reading the help section of Google Analytics

Is there a report that displays IP addresses?

Due to user privacy concerns, Google Analytics doesn’t report on personally identifiable information, including a visitor’s IP address. Instead, Google Analytics provides aggregated data to help you make informed business decisions. You can view the Map Overlay report (under the Visitors section) to look at aggregated geographical data about your visitors, or view the Network Location report (under Visitors > Network Properties) to see your visitors’ ISP locations.

It is extremely odd that a search engine which undoubtedly collects quite a bit of information from its search (and other services) users decides to withhold information in this manner in the name of privacy. There are 100s of visitor statistics scripts that allow the user to classify and view site visitors sorted by IP. It is baffling to call all those privacy invaders. It is perhaps even more puzzling to assume that if any Google Analytics user sees something like “125.12.12.12” he or she can or will somehow use that for something other than being a good webmaster.

Create Menus using the CSS Tab Designer

The CSS Tab Designer is described by its author as

CSS Tab Designer is a unique and easy to use software to help you design css-based lists and tabs visually and without any programming knowledge required

Using Cascading Style Sheets to design or code web pages is often an interesting task. It is often an adventure to create beautiful designs and achieve impressive effects as browser support for CSS is peculiar at best. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is maligned for many things, not least of which is security, but for much of its history it has lagged in web standards support which of course means that the support for the different specifications of Cascading Style Sheets has been less than what most web designer would wish it to be.

One software that is able to create tabbed menus is the CSS Tab Designer. Menus and navigation in general are an important part of a site’s user experience and using a software like the CSS Tab Designer one can not only easily create one of 60 tabbed styled menus but perhaps more importantly one can learn CSS by example through studying the generated HTML and CSS.

Upon opening the CSS Tab Designer one is presented with around 60 styles to choose from. There one can easily add menu items or additional tabs and then very easily change the number, position, order and the text of the tabs using the Edit menu. The actual relevant or generated code is viewable via a separate tab within the program.

The program offers information on browser support by providing a sampling of links to popular and important web sites that offer more tools and discussion on everything CSS. CSS tab Designer is a freeware that runs on Windows 98, ME , 2000, XP, and 2003 and is available at www.highdots.com. A couple of recommended and interesting sites on CSS worth mentioning here are Dynamic Drive and A List Apart

Dirhtml Index.html Generator

The dirhtml index.html generator is described by its author as

Dirhtml builds customizable html files from a folder branch using the gui or command line

Creating a file listing has been one of the oldest and sometimes most discussed implementations for any computer, it is obvious how to and may be even trivial to achieve a list via a search or the CLI (command line interface.)

One tool however, that offers a GUI (graphical user interface) for this task is dirhtml. The program’s options consist of 6 tabs that allow you to customize the input and output in many different and useful ways.

The first tab is called ‘Folders, Files’ and this is where the files or folder(s) the user needs to work on are chosen, those files can be filtered by type, name or even their location in subfolders. This is also the place where the output file template and/or location is chosen.

The second tab is called ‘Miscellaneous’  and offers many options all packed into one page (see below.) Here everything about the output can be customized. The user can choose to include file sizes in the output, change the date format, insert summary statistics and much more.

dirhtml

The third tab is the ‘Sorting’ options one and by comparison it is an empty tab. Two main choices are included here that allow the user to sort the way the files are listed in the output. One is ‘sort by’ where files can be sorted by filename, date, size, extension or random order and the other is ‘sort order’  where ascending, descending and unsorted order are listed. However I have not tried and am not sure how the two can work together, for example what happens if the ‘sort by’ is date and the ‘sort order’ is unsorted?

The fourth tab is ‘Default Words’ and here one can customize and include html tags (such as bold, italic, etc.) for the titles, headings and summary text of the resulting output.

The fifth tab is ‘Recursive’ options and here the user can divide the output. For example the user may want each subfolder worked on and presented separately or perhaps presented in a framed HTML page.

The final tab (see image below) gives the user the control of where the output is launched, what language or font is used and also the option to work with batch files and scripts to automate the process and even further customize every aspect of the resulting output file. Everything from working with alternate rows to using style sheets or validating the output is made possible here. The included help file has examples and a list of tags or words that can be used for the customization.

dirhtml2

All in all a very powerful program, dirhtml is now at version v4.832 and is a portable freeware. It runs under NT/2000/XP/Vista and a Windows 98 compatible version is also available at dirhtml.enware.info.

xNeat Windows Manager utility

The xNeat Windows Manager is described by its author as

xNeat is a very handy windows enhancement utility that gives you full control over your windows and adds functionality to your desktop that you wish that Microsoft had included. It’s neat, compact and combines many useful programs into one.

The xNeat Windows Manager adds several useful and plain fun functionality to any application window. One of the most useful and time saving of the features is ‘Send To Tray’ which like most features is easily accessible by middle clicking on any window’s title bar. Instead of taking up space on the taskbar the window is minimized to the tray bar and into an icon. Also using the same key one can choose to keep any window on top. Hiding a window is also possible in the same way and the hidden window can be retrieved or restored by right clicking on the taskbar and accessing the xNeat Windows Manager menu and all its settings. (see image below)

xneat

It is also possible to control window and taskbar transparency and set priorities for processes and application windows themselves. Not to mention hiding the start button, clock, taskbar and system tray icons altogether. A pro version is also available that adds windows roll ups plus shortcuts accessible from the titlebar, keyboard or mouse. The pro version also makes it possible to clone a file name which can be useful if a file of the same name exists in a given directory. Further to that one can also append the current date to a file’s name when saving it. The xNeat Windows Manager runs on XP and 32 bit Vista and along with Clipboard Management, a clipboard utility, and Application Builder, a program that turns VBScript, JScript, HTA  or HTML files into executables (among other things), is available at www.xneat.com


Ac Browser Plus File Manager

Ac Browser Plus file manager or windows explorer replacement is described by its author as

Advanced, multi-window file manager and FTP client for Windows

File managers are often used by regular and power users alike to extend the functionality of Windows Explorer. There are many mainstays and popular ones like the freeware FreeCommander, UltraExplorer, and Q-Dir and the shareware XYplorer. One rarely mentioned one is the Ac Browser Plus which I have been running for over a year now.

acbrowserplus

It supports many features and is highly customizable. One of the more notable features it has is that you are able to work with many folders (unfortunately limited to 3 in the freeware version)  at the same time. However many additional features are all present in the freeware version. Integrated FTP client is one. Folder synchronization is another important tool. Viewers for many image and text formats is only bettered by a zip viewer which unlike many other file viewers and explorer replacements work perfectly in my many uses. It is very useful to be able to navigate inside zip archives and Ac Browser Plus does the best job I have seen among the few viewers that actually support this feature.

The features don’t stop there, one interesting and useful feature is the ‘hot point’ where you can get file properties and a thumbnail by hovering over a small red rectangle near the file name in list views. There is a renamer included as well, and an useful address bar/breadcrumbs is available that makes folder navigation even easier. Not to mention several scripts for such things as creating file lists and opening applications.

With the very customizable views that it offers and at 2.9MB for a virtually feature complete freeware version Ac Browser Plus deserves better ratings and attention. I feel that if the developer finds more time in adding and developing the additional features like the scripting and quashes a few bugs then with a bit of promotion Ac Browser Plus will get very popular. The OS support is listed as Win XP, NT, 2000, 2003.

Total Text Container PIM

Total Text Container is a PIM (Personal Information Management) software described by its author as

Store Documentation, Notes, Passwords, Images, Bookmarks, Contacts, Spreadsheets, Money Transactions, Calendar Events & Tasks, iCalander events, CD/DVD/Movie catalogs, Multi layer encryption, Portable, xml database, all in one powerful PIM app.

Total Text Container is a pretty complete and feature rich software that allows you to do a lot and organize your information all in one folder.

ttc

It has many interesting and valuable features.  It can store all sorts of lists, such as movies, bookmarks, confidential information and images. Syntax highlighted code and snippets can be saved as well. It is possible to add clipboards and even tasks to Total Text Container and access them via the program’s tray icon without actually wading through the program itself. There is also a ‘Mix Frame’  feature which allows the user to work on different ‘frames’ such as notes, spreadsheets, code and others at the same time, though it seems to be a work in progress in my tests, I got a few access violation errors while attempting to add or show frames.

TTC is worth checking out and though at alpha v0.a070 as of this writing it can prove useful with a bit of caution because as mentioned access violation errors can pop up from time to time. The author claims that

As long as TTC is below version 1.00 then its still in beta stage, I use TTC almost every day so i def want it to be error free myself. I fix errors as i find them but if I don’t know about an error i can’t fix it so let me know on my forums on sourceforge.

so one should be able to get some help just in case. Have a look at http://mtirnanic.googlepages.com/

AdiIRC IRC Client

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is one of those methods of communication that dates back to the early days of when the world wide web was working its way to the mainstream. mIRC and to some extent PIRCH became the more popular client (stand alone program) based ways of using IRC and entering the many channels available on the many networks around the internet. Browser based means like java applets and to a lesser extent flash embeds achieved the same through browsers but sometimes made IRC use awkward.

AdiIRC is one of the more recent entrants but is at version 1.8 now and includes a feature that most IRC clients support only through add-ons or plugins. ‘Now Playing’ display of songs being listened through the likes of WinAmp has a been a mainstay of IRC and AdiIRC has that built-in. Additionally it supports SSL connections, DCC File Transfers, Logging, Tab key cycling, and many other commands and shortcuts to ease its use and expected by those who still call the many IRC networks home. A couple of more impressive additions worth mentioning are what is called ‘Easy Message Search’ where the user can right click in the channel window and search the conversation inline. The other addition is a google search which can be had through customizing the toolbar. After all this it is important to also mention that themes and plug-ins are supported but very few ready made ones are available as of this writing.

The only possible negative that may be attributed to AdiIRC is the .NET (2.0 and above) requirement but otherwise this is a very promising IRC client and very much worth a look.

Green thoughts

As you may have noticed I have a ‘Green’ category set up here. My intention is to not post about software only but also to add my thoughts about the environment and may be even politics sometimes. This site may or may not seem like a personal blog as opposed to a tech or software review blog. If you have any thoughts on this please leave a comment. I hope that this site or blog will evolve into something interesting for most.