Posts Tagged ‘Cool Tools’


I am sure this only happens to me, but it happened a couple of times this week and is one of those things that quite frankly is embarrassing: forgetting to attach a file to an email.

Email: Please see the attached file for your review and comments.

Response: Uh Rick, nothing attached.

Me: Doh!

So today one of my colleagues was kind enough to point me toward Remind Me Attachments. She said she recently started using it and it helps. I checked it out and the developer only charges US$5 and is compatible with Outlook 2007. Cool. I will try out almost any software that saves me time or frustration for less than $50.

It was a slight pain in the neck to get installed and working, but the short FAQ was helpful. There is no documentation, and I actually tripped over the settings dialog while I was looking for the add-ins dialog in Outlook. Once you have it installed (simple Setup.EXE) you need to go into the Outlook Options dialog. A new tab is added for the Remind Me Attachments. This new page has a checkbox to turn the feature on and five text boxes for keywords to be recognized. I added:

  1. Attached
  2. Attachment

No sooner did I get it installed I found myself testing it out purely by accident. It already has saved me once. A dialog is displayed if you don’t have a file attached and one of your keywords is found in the message body. You still can send the message after the warning without attaching a file.

So far I have not run into any compatibility issues. I don’t know if it is compatible with Outlook versions prior to 2007. But so far it saved me from one embarrassing moment, which completely makes it worth the US$5!


I know a lot of you reading this post are fans of TechSmith’s SnagIt. TechSmith released the new version a week ago and I upgraded my production machine over the weekend (only US$19.95). Simply said: SnagIt 9 rocks! I was not sure exactly what TechSmith could do to improve what I think is a nearly perfect product, but the folks over in Okemos Michigan obviously listen to their customers and have added some terrific stuff.

Over the years I have become more and more reluctant to installing newly released software, but I did not hesitate to do so with SnagIt 9 despite being in the middle of a number of projects including a new book, a regular column in FoxRockX, and using this tool to write specs and user documentation. In short, I cannot afford to lose SnagIt stability. TechSmith did not let me down. In fact, they have made my life better with the newest release.

My favorite new feature is the revamped SnagIt Editor and the ability to work with multiple images. When I am working on an article, chapter in a book, white paper, or user documentation I like to do some side-by-side images. Previous to this release I had to take the images separately, save them, and use something like MS Paint or Paint.NET to merge them together. Now I can take a couple of snags and use the editor to work with as many images as I can capture. No more one-at-a-time. This editor allows you to drag-n-drop images from the Open Captures Tray to the Canvas. Nice.

Speaking of the SnagIt Editor, I think they have implemented the ribbon control perfectly. I will admit, when I first saw the ribbon control demonstrated in Microsoft Office a couple of years ago I was skeptical. I adapted to it quickly in Microsoft Office, but even today I occasionally run into something I struggle to find. This is not the case with the SnagIt Editor. I have found everything I have looked for and it is exactly in the place I thought it should be. For instance, instead of the blurring and edging features being on individual panes in the task pane (how it worked in SnagIt 8), they are together on the Image tab of the ribbon. Same for the rotate, resize, crop, cut out, resize, border, etc., etc. The old task pane kept switching back to the main after each effect was used, but now the ribbon stays put. The list of graphic editing capabilities keeps on growing.

Speaking of the graphics capabilities expanding, I also really like the perspectives effect. Very easy to use and lots of options.

I have already started using the new tagging feature inside the Search Pane. Very cool and very powerful. There is the ability to save your own keywords, but I am using the built in flags (important, bug/error, follow up, funny, personal, financial, idea, sent, and cool) more. What images came from Visual FoxPro, FireFox, PowerDesk, etc. Now I can search the images I have captured by any of these settings.

There is one bug I have come across, but it is already solved by the developers. Occasionally I would see the Invalid Argument messagebox pop up when grabbing an image. Only way out was to kill the app via the Task Manager. One check with the tech support site shows a fix is already ready. I have not seen the message since I installed the updated SnagIt Editor fix.

I am sure there are other new features I have not even looked at and will be using down the road, and I am looking forward to discovering them. Great user interface, great work flow, great product.



Tracking tracking is critical to developers who bill by the hour or need to show how much time they worked on projects for clients. White Light Computing 1.0 (a.k.a before-Frank {g}) was a series of simple entries into QuickBooks Pro. All the entries flow directly to the invoices sent to the customers. I have the software running on my machine so this really was not a big deal and the time entry in QuickBooks is easy to use for the most part.

On to White Light Computing 2.0 stocked with a full-time employee and the need to track time so the overhead of administrative headaches does not drive me crazy. I had four requirements:

  1. Easy to use.
  2. Reasonably priced.
  3. Integration with QuickBooks to avoid the duplicate entry.
  4. It could not be TimeSlips which personally I tried in a former job and it stunk.

Frank made a recommendation of TimeTTracker from R&F; Consulting based on some experience he has with the product. I contacted the vendor with some questions about the integration with QuickBooks, how the data synchronized between TimeTTracker and QuickBooks, and how I would get the settings from QuickBooks (like customer lists, billing items, etc.) to TimeTTracker on employee’s computers. The sales person was very nice and very responsive. He even answered my technical questions about the software, the language it is written in (“old-fashioned, but fast C++/MFC”, developer’s words not mine, but I told him I prefer “mature” technology too {g}), how it works with the SQL Server Compact edition, and how this would not conflict with the my existing SQL Server installation.

The process did not start out real smooth. I cannot say for sure what went wrong, but after the initial install of TimeTTracker my ActiveSync to my Treo broke. TimeTTracker has a Windows Mobile component to keep track of your time and it synchronizes with the desktop component. I think this is cool, but don’t anticipate using the phone to track my time. Still this was frustrating. So I spent a few days (linear time not actual time) fixing ActiveSync, and reinstalled TimeTTracker. Everything worked the second time around.

I have to say, this program is a winner. The synching of customer lists, items, etc. is smooth. I add something new in QuickBooks and jump to TimeTTracker and tell it to synch. Seven seconds later everything is up to date. The actual time entry is easy to use and has a killer feature called “templates” where I set up a template with the employee name (me), preselected customer, item (determines the rate), and whether it is billable or not. Now all I have to do is pick the template, pick the date, enter in the time and description and save. In QuickBooks I had to pick each setting each time I entered in time for a project. This is going to save me a lot of time each week.

I export the QuickBook settings to an XML file and send it to Frank who imports the settings into his copy of TimeTTracker. He exports his time and sends it to me once a week. I import the file into TimeTTracker, review and clean up entries, then upload them to QuickBooks for invoicing.

The entire process is slick and will save me a ton of time. The license for the QuickBooks version is only US$90. If you don’t need the QuickBooks integration you can pick up the standard version for US$40. There is a version for Microsoft Office Accounting too. I have only been using this product a week, but it has made my administrative life better.

Nice recommendation Frank, thanks.

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