Editor’s Desk Nov 2008

Often, when what I’ve read about some piece  of software that makes it seem like a “must-have”, I wonder what others think of it—especially the negative aspects. My usual sources for software reviews are Snapfiles.com, download.com, and lifehacker.com.

For restaurant reviews, my first choice is yelp.com. The second place I go looking ispaloaltoonline.com, via the Mtn View Voice < http://www.mv-voice.com/restaurants/ > .

Optical Illusions and Kaleidoscopes can be interesting and/or provide some pleasant distraction. Check out http://tinyurl.com/5fo5m6 and http://www.moillusions.com/  for illusions. The best (free) kaleidoscope site I’ve found is at http://tinyurl.com/295a99 .

It’s about time: After all these years of looking at digital clocks, I sometimes want to see an analog clock with a second hand sweeping its dial. One of the Opera browser’s most-popular Widgets is just such a clock. Other sources for analog clocks I like are—ClockX < http://www.clocx.net/ >,Rainlender Lite (aka Rainlender2 < http://tinyurl.com/5djn98 > , and TimeTrek <http://tinyurl.com/58c4oo > . Rainlendar and TimeTrek have additional capabilities. Here’s an unusual clock that combines analog and digital in its display < http://www.jessonyip.com/analogy/ >

Where’s that message I thought I’d downloaded? It’s taken me more than once to figure this one out! I think I’ve downloaded a message, then can’t find it in my inbox. First thing to check is that I am looking at my inbox. Next, check sorting order and search filtering. My default sorting order is newest-at bottom, so I can get thrown off if I’ve changed it (source, topic, etc), or applied some search filter that doesn’t pass the message.

Where’s that file I thought I’d downloaded? More than once, I’ve downloaded a file and not found it where I’d said it should go. This is particularly problematic with a large file that has taken a long time to download. What I’ve learned is to look in my browser’s temporary storage area. Particularly useful here is a file manager, such as Free Commander < http://tinyurl.com/52dsae > , whose search tool allows you to specify a file-creation-time range less than a day; if you’re looking for a file you’ve just downloaded, you probably want to limit your search to the last hour or so.

Where’s that file I thought I’d saved? Editing files poses a couple of hazards. The first is unintentionally overwriting a file, the second is losing track of where you’ve saved your work.

To overcome the first of these problems (unintentional overwriting), I try to make it habit to always “save as” a different file name—before making any change, and doing this may cause the second problem (“where is it?”), if the “save as” pointed to a different folder than the one I started in. In this case, before firing up my file manager to search for the lost file, I look for the file in the editing program’s list of recent files, open it, and then note where “save as” wants to save it—which is probably where it was sent in the first place.

Why didn’t Microsoft think of it? Often I’m working in a situation where I’m switching between two (or more) files and have wished their taskbar buttons were adjacent, to make that switching easier. Now I have two small programs that enable me to do that—Taskbar Shuffle <http://tinyurl.com/687qnn >, and Taskix < http://taskix.robustit.com/ >.

Here’s something Microsoft did think of: Because I run lots of programs at the same time, my System Tray (Systray) has lots of icons in it. Microsoft has provided a way to hide icons for programs not actively used. Here’s how to do it, in Windows XP:
1. Right click on an empty area in the Taskbar.
2. Select “Properties” to open the “Taskbar and Start Menu Properties” window.
3. At the bottom of the “Taskbar” tab, select “Hide inactive icons”.
4. Click “OK”.

I use CutePDF Writer < http://tinyurl.com/2lznks > as my default printer, and also have several other PDF printer programs installed. I’ve noticed that when I install an upgrade to any of these programs, I should expect that my default printer becomes changed to my ink-and-paper printer, so I have to remember to check the selected device when I specify printing, and be prepared to restore my preferred-printer choice.

Two troublesome buttons I remove from my email handlers’ toolbars are “Send” and “Reply to All”. That way, I feel I’m less likely to inadvertently do either of those things. Another thing I try to do is to have the message-level and folder-level toolbars’ “Delete” buttons in different places, so clicking “twice” on a message’s “Delete” button is less likely to inadvertently delete a message from the folder. See the illustration below.

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