Archive for the ‘Utility’ Category
I have been using a tool for a couple of years now that makes it a breeze to create simple or complicated scripts using vbscript or jscript. It has tons of samples, a debugger, and comes with an HTA (HTML Application) editor. A couple of years ago I thought I was done with using vbscript, but VBSEdit makes it so easy to build powerful scripts.
I just recently created a comparison tool to compare active users in Active Directory with users in our personnel system. The results of the comparison is an html report that is e-mailed to a group of users. I was able to create the comparison utility in a few hours using VBS Edit. I don’t know any other environment which would have let me accomplish the same thing in the same amount of time.
I have been trying different methods of synchronizing my Calendars for many years, and I have finally settled on a method that works for me and is pretty much maintenance free. That method utilizes Google Calendar as my hub and a combination of Google Calendar Sync and an excellent program called gSyncit ($9.99).
Google Calendar supports multiple calendars and lets you publish/share them to other calendar tools like Outlook. Google Sync will synchronize your Outlook calendar to GMail, but it has limitations, and will only synchronize one calendar. I use Google Calendar Sync to synchronize my work calendar with Google Calendar. I renamed my main Google calendar to “Work”. Using Google Calendar Sync on my work computer, I push my work Outlook calendar to Google Calendar. I have my work Outlook look at my other Google calendars as Internet Calendars.
At home I use Outlook to get my calendar to my iPod and Windows Mobile phone. Pocket Outlook only has one calendar and Activesync will only sync one calendar to Outlook. gSyncit is a way to get around that limitation.
gSyncit will synchronize all your different Google calendars to your Outlook calendar. It does this by using categories. Each Google calendar ends up as a different category. My Work calendar ends up as category Work. There are several options for configuring the sync process and controlling what gets synced where. It is easy to setup, so it is very easy to try out before buying. It worked so well for me I only used it for ten minutes before deciding to pay the $9.99. gSyncit has other features besides the calendar sync, it will also sync your contacts with GMail and that includes photos.
Once I had gSyncit syncing my Google and home Outlook calendars then my Windows Mobile phone and iPod automatically benefited and were now syncing with all my Google Calendars.
It may seem complicated, but it has actually been simple, painless, and problem free since I set it up several months ago. I update my personal and work calendars during the day and when I get home and sync my phone my calendars are all synced. The few hours that I am out of sync I can just go to Google Calendar and get the latest info.
gSyncit – http://daveswebsite.com
Screen shots of some of the gSyncit synchronization options:
WikiPock is a utility for Windows Mobile devices and Blackberrys, that lets you search Wikipedia without being connected to a network. The costs for this convenience is quite reasonable. The Basic version is $9.99 and the Plus Version, which includes updates for a year and two additional databases, is $14.99. The additional databases are Wikiquote, and Wiktionary. The wikipedia database is currently 5 gig in size. If you don’t have that much free space and you need to buy a memory card, they sell an 8 gig microSDHC card with the database preloaded for an additional $15.00. The database includes full editorial content except images.
I have found it quite useful and a battery saver. I find I use it every day. You can read all about it here: http://www.wikipock.com
The search is real time displaying matches as you type. Here are some screen shots showing the Search page and the results after searching for HTC t and then clicking on HTC Touch Pro:
|Search Screen||Results Screen|
I’ve been a user of the MS SendToX PowerToy utility for years. I especially like the Send To–>ClipBoard (As Name). I use it everyday. One problem though it doesn’t work in Vista. Instead I’ve been using a feature of SmartStartMenu which adds “Copy Pathname” to the explorer context menu. This is useful if you need to copy only one fully qualified filename to the clipboard, but doesn’t help if you have several filenames to copy.
I recently had to copy many filenames multiple times and ended up resorting to doing DIR /b “*.whatever” at the command prompt. So I looked around and found that someone had come to my rescue and had made a replacement for SendToX and it works for Vista and XP. He also added a few extras by giving you several options in how those clipboard entries are built.
One option is to have filenames that contain spaces get enclosed in quotes. You can also have multiple files end up as a list of files or all on the same line. Very useful if you are constantly copying and pasting filenames and paths.
This utility has several other useful functions that replace or enhance the features included in the original SendToX powertoy.
- Send To “Clipboard (as name)”
- Send To “Command Prompt”
- Send To “Default Mail Recipient”
- Send To “Favorites”
- Send To “Folder…”
- Send To “Quick Launch”
- Send To “Recycle Bin”
- Send To “Run…”
There is also a Send To “Clipboard” command line utility.
You can get Send To Toys at http://www.gabrieleponti.com/software/
The configuration utility that comes with let’s you manage what is in your “Send To” menu and the options of the included features in Send To Toys. So goto Gabriel’s site and if you like the utility click on Donate.
PowerShell is Microsoft’s CMD.exe replacement. It is a very powerful shell that does an excellent job of bridging the gap of the DOS command line, COM objects, vbscript, and .NET. It is hard to describe it’s capabilities. You really have to experience it for yourself and have your own epiphany.
Using Powershell I was able to easily include in one script the recursing of the folder structure for files with the archive bit set, selection by file extension, and calling the iTunes COM object api. It works quite well.
I basically have a server that runs Juice 24 hours a day collecting podcasts. When I get ready to synch my iPod I just run the PowerShell script and iTunes is updated. I have smart playlists that automatically organize the podcasts when they are loaded.
For links to the script and a detailed explanation go here.
FileMon is a utility by Sysinternals. It is simple and easy to use and may help get you out of bind when you don’t know why you are getting an error message. It is amazing how many different problems this utility will help solve. You can read more about Sysinternals utilities here.
Last fall I used FileMon to help us solve a perplexing problem. We had an important piece of software that wasn’t performing well, so they upgraded the workstations that it was running on. Even though the workstations were now more than powerful enough, they would still pause and miss collecting some of the important data that they were collecting. The vendor wasn’t any help, and the users were losing faith in the software.
I figured I would just sit down and monitor the software using Regmon and Filemon. As I watched the application it became obvious to me that it was looking for a file called none.wav. One of the things that happens when you look for a file that doesn’t exist, is that each folder in the path is searched. If you have large folders, or folders on a network drive, and folders on a network drive that is on a server on the WAN somewhere, that search can take a while. It might even cause the system to hang a little while the search is going on.
The application had the ability to play sounds to alert you when an event occurs. If you didn’t want to hear a sound that event was set to “none”. This caused the application to constantly search for the file none.wav. The vendor was unaware of this.
Creating a short silent file called none.wav and putting it in the application folder, stopped the constant searching and cleared up the problems we were having. A problem that had been researched for a long time without coming up with a solution was solved in a few minutes with Filemon.
I have been living under rock as far as this software is concerned. My past experience with keyboard macro/playback software has left me tainted. I recently started using this as a way to automate some daily tasks that I do with “My Life Organized”. I soon learned that this is an extremely powerful tool that can be tailored by scripting to your precise needs. The more you use it the more you find things that you can use it for. It’s a must have tool, and it’s free.
It is very useful in it’s most simplest implementation and as you become more comfortable with it it has the power to grow with you.
My main workstation has had Windows XP on it since it first game out. I’ve never had to rebuild it. So after several years my “All Programs” menu has become out of control. Each time I clean it up by organizing it with more folders, it becomes more difficult to find stuff as it gets buried in the mess.
Shaun Harrington has come to my rescue with his excellent product called SmartStartMenu. It’s main function is to give you a toolbar that allows you search all your programs. You can customize where it looks and how it behaves. I have mine search my desktop, my Start Menu, and a couple of other directories.
To use it, you just type some letters and it displays all the items that contain that text. On my system typing “Visual” brings up a list like this:
I use the option that highlights the most recently used item. It is so fast and easy to use. If you have a lot of stuff in your program menu or on your desktop then this utility will save you tons of time.
If that was all it did it would still be great, but it has a few other tricks. If you used the Send To option in Windows 95 PowerToys, then you’ll like that SmartStartMenu will add “Copy Pathname” and “Copy Short Pathname” to your explorer context menu. SmartStartMenu can be used as a replacement for the Run dialog. It is also easy to quickly navigate your folder structure on your hard disks.
Shaun doesn’t ask for any money for this utility. He does have a link that let’s you buy him a beer. So try it out and buy him a beer.
For a couple of years now I have been using a product called ClipCache Pro. This program saves everything that you put in your clipboard. You are then able to go back through ClipCache and re-paste it at a later time. You can create folders so that you can organize your clips. I just have few folders. I put some common code snippets in one folder. Another folder has some common items that I paste (ie. user names, server names, paths). You can give a clip a friendly name and the contents can be things you don’t like to type. I have another folder containing common answers or solutions that I have to use over and over again in e-mail or our help desk system. I like the fact that it puts my clips in a database that I have can locate on a network drive or even a flash drive.
I find it extremely useful when I have to create documentation, test plans, or installation instructions. I can just take the screen shots as I go along, without having to deal with them. I can then go back and include the screen shots in the document that I’m creating. It’s one of my “must have” tools. I always feel crippled sitting with someone else, helping them do something and they can only have one clip at a time.
I must say it is amazing what passes through your clipboard. After using it for a few months you will be amazed at all the things that you put into the clipboard.
Click screenshot for larger image:
Many years ago I started using Textpad as a replacement for Notepad. I soon discovered several features that made my life so much easier. I now don’t know what I would do without them. I’d be interested in hearing if there are any other similar products that include these features. Both features that I will describe here involve the “Find in Files” functionality.
The first aspect of the “Find in Files” function is the fact that Textpad will display the results of the search and clicking on each line brings you directly to the file and place in the file that the search text is found. The file is opened in a new tab so the search is still available. Before 5.0 the search results ended up in it’s own tab. In 5.0 the search results ends up in a special window at the bottom of the Textpad window.
The example that I’m using is searching a Dr. Watson file for “when:”. This let’s you see the frequency of abends on a PC that is having problems.. This search will result in a list of abends with the date/time of each abend. Double-Clicking on one of the search result entries will bring you right to the start of the Dr. Watson entry in the log file.
Find in Files dialog:
Results of searching a Dr. Watson log file (click image below for larger image):
The second example is useful when you need to replace something in several text files that you know is unique and safe to change.
- Using the “Find in Files”, do the same as the Dr. Watson search above except, instead of giving a specific file name, use wildcards.
- Pick the top level directory of the files you want to search
- Check the “Search subfolders” option
- The search results will contain all the lines that contain the search text.
- Right-click in the search results and click on “Open All”.
- All the files named in the search results will open up in seperate tabs.
- Use the “Replace” option under the “Search” menu to identify what to replace. Click the “All Documents” option and then click “Replace All”.
- The text will be replaced in all the files.
- Under the “Files” menu click “Save All” and “Close All”.It’s easy and fast.
If you can’t quite get something unique across all files you can do it several times using unique search criteria that meets your needs. The nice thing about doing it this way rather than a command line tool is that you can easily see how good your search is and whether or not it’s safe to really do the “replace all” before actually doing it.