Share Your Little Software Secrets

I primarily use Linux (specifically, Kubuntu Linux) as my main computing platform, so most of the software I could recommend might be of little use to the majority of readers (except for my advice: give Linux a try, without doing anything permanent to your computer, with a LiveCD. You might like it). That said, there are some cross-platform or Windows-only tools that I’ve grown to love, and I thought I’d share. I’d also like to hear your suggestions for little software programs or tricks that make your life easier.

So, here’s a smattering of programs cross-platform or Windows-only programs that I think are worth spreading the gospel of:

  • GmailAssistant I like to have a systray notification of new Gmail messages, but I don’t always want to be signed into google talk, as in the default Gmail notifier. Gmail Assistant is a little java program that alerts you to new email; and it’s VERY configurable. You can set it to only tell you about messages with certain labels, and whether it should display a pop-up or beep, or… well, there’s a lot of configuration options. Nice. Oh, and it can track multiple Gmail accounts at once, if that’s your thing.
  • Prism Although still a beta, Mozilla Prism is a tool to turn web applications (like Gmail) into stand-alone applications on your desktop. With it, I can have a separate window that’s just Gmail, which always remembers my settings, and can be docked into the system tray, and runs an independent browser– so if Firefox crashes on some crappy flash site, my web app is still fine in it’s own window. Neat.
  • KnotesAlright, so KNotes isn’t a windows application, but it has lots of equivalent Windows versions (like Sticky Notes, Stickies for Windows, or NoteZilla). It lets you put persistent sticky notes up on your desktop. I use it to remind me of chores, fun tasks (like updating this site), and other things I don’t want to forget.
  • NotePad++ The built-in windows textpad is just… bad. NotePad++ replaces it (even for things like looking at HTML source, etc), and does a much better job. It can detect and color-code programming schemes, you can have tabs with more than I file at once, and more. It’s great.
  • Inkscape My preferred diagram and schematic creation software is cross-platform, and very good at what it does. It’s like Adobe Illustrator, but free and funky.
  • Audacity Again, a freeware solution, Audacity will handle every need you ever have for audio editing. I’ve used to make cell phone ringtones, break a large audiobook up into chapters, make sound effects for games, and a friend uses it to convert books on cassette tape to mp3s for his iPod.

9 Responses to “Share Your Little Software Secrets”

Ooo! I totally didn’t think this post would be remotely useful to me, but Gilvoro may be able to use Audacity. Thanks for the link.

ShortSpeedFreak - March 28th, 2008 at 9:32 am

Well, I’ve started using Ubuntu (having spent the previous 9 years using pure Debian). My list of good cross platform apps are limited but I’ll do my best here.

Gajim – Far and away the best XMPP protocol (aka Jabber or GTalk) client. That’s saying a lot since I work for Jabber and we make clients as well as servers. Oh, and for those Linux users, it links up with Rhythmbox to show your current track as your presence.

VLC – This isn’t the best video player by any stretch of the means, but it works on multiple platforms and does DVDs with minimal pain. Considering MS is supposed to have deals with the MPAA to allow playing of DVDs on their OS, I find it rediculous that I’ve had more problems trying to get DVD video to work on Windows than Linux. This has been the only opensource tool I’ve found that does the trick (the codex are illegal to download an use in the US).

Cygwin – When you absolutely need a full featured shell with things like… an ssh server. Why Windows doesn’t ship with an ssh server still boggles my mind.

Stephen Hill - April 15th, 2008 at 5:13 pm

So you do lurk on here 😉

Mallorn - April 16th, 2008 at 9:28 am

I was about to say the same, Mallorn. 🙂

Welcome aboard (for however long you’ve been here) Stephen! You should come visit Teisha and I in tropical paradise.
And, just as importantly, welcome to the delicious world of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu-geekout: Right now, I have a home server, desktop, media center, and laptop running Kubuntu, as well as three work computers running Kubuntu or Xubuntu… I’m a big geek. But I’ve learned a lot along the way! I write little shell scripts all the time to automate my data analysis, and I even wrote a kernel patch to fix my laptop’s battery status not being detected.

Next talking point: You work for Jabber now? Congrats! I’ll also check out Gajim– I usually use Kopete, because I prefer Qt look and feel to GTK, but I can make exceptions.

Lastly, with all the Linux users here, maybe I should do this post over, but with Linux software– Like hugin and Kile!

Paradoxdruid - April 16th, 2008 at 10:39 am

Only recently decided to re-lurk.

I have three machines at home, two on Ubuntu (main desktop and laptop) and one still on pure Debian (old desktop). I’ve gone to only having one machine up at a time and try to limit the amount of uptime on my main machine to 6 hours a day simply because I took notice of the electric bill. 😛 My work machine is also Ubuntu and all of our lab machines are Ubuntu with either free VMWare Server or KVM.

As for XMPP clients… well… the devs here, whether they use Ubuntu or Kubuntu, all use gajim. Only the non-tech people actually use our own clients. hehe

As for QT vs GTK. Have you gotten a chance to play with compiz and beryl? Mmmm tasty eye candy.

Anyway. Back to work.

Stephen - April 16th, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Gajim looks pretty good! Personally, I’m still a little too attached to my AIM contacts, so I have to live with Pidgin.

Ubuntu is really taking over recently. I’ll still probably stick with base debian on my coming server rebuild, but I could definitely see a case for going to Ubuntu Server. Of course, that ignores the might of CentOS, which is also becoming quite popular.

Ted - April 16th, 2008 at 4:58 pm

You’re in luck AOL is switching to XMPP. The Oscar language sucks and they know it.

Stephen Hill - April 16th, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Oh right. I had forgotten about that. I’ll have to test that out.

Ted - April 17th, 2008 at 11:17 am

I have to say, I personally prefer ShaZAM, though Qbot and KAOS (Kick Ass OS) are close seconds. But, if they ever work the quazzles out of KaZAM, I might have to switch to that. There are so many bytetastic functional compuzels that it is hard to choose the best hoozle.

Yeah, that’s what I think of you people! 😛 Now please don’t tell me any of those are real names/words…

But to be fair, my field has more than its share of ridiculous acronyms and abbreviations. My recent favorite is the RING area on some proteins that bind DNA — apparently “RING” stands for Really Interesting New Gene. There are tons of proteins with this area.. so ridiculous but wonderful…

teisha - April 17th, 2008 at 3:35 pm

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