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    April 21st, 2013


    Software I Use On a Regular Basis

    February 15th, 2009

    What are the key attributes that software should have?

    • Provides a solution to a problem or fills a need.
    • Mostly error free; I’m not naive enough to think that any software is totally bug free.
    • A value, solution should meet or exceed the cost.
    • Easy to use.
    • Easy to install and uninstall.

    Any other attributes that software should have?

    The purpose of this blog entry is to highlight some software that I use on a regular basis to do a variety of tasks.  I will keep this entry updated with new tools that I find and use.

    Most of these are free for home use, many are free regardless, and many are open source.  As usual YMMV (your mileage may vary).


    Skype is a VoIP solution that provides free computer-to-computer calls and sells low cost solutions to reach regular phone numbers in North America and the world.  We use a headset with a microphone attached.  Some people use a microphone and PC speakers.  We have also used a webcam to make it a video phone.

    Skype allows you to make free calls to anyone with an internet connection and the Skype software.  My daughter uses it to call her friend in New Zealand.  They arrange a time that is convenient for both of them, considering the time difference, and they call each other at that time.  While you can just call when the other party is online, for that distance I prefer that she make arrangements, it seems more polite.

    A few years ago, Skype offered unlimited USA calling for $15.  I tried it out and saved a few dollars on long distance, but I felt tied to my PC.  For PC to PC calls, you do both have to have Skype.

    For those cases where you need to call outside North America to friends and family, this is a good solution.

    Alternative:  Gizmo – Does not seem to have the following of Skype.


    This is a Google Labs product to organize and edit your digital photos.  It does a pretty good job of organizing your photos and helping you upload them to a wide variety of printing services from Walgreens to Shutterfly.

    One other feature it has is the ability to upload to Picasa Web Albums to share pictures online.  We use the screen saver option to show some of our pictures as a screen saver.


    This is a text editor for windows.

    A source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages.

    I use this as a Microsoft Notepad replacement.  It has support for various types of file formats.  Great when I am uploading parameters to this blog, or editing HTML in raw format.  It has a tab interface to open multiple files at the same time.

    Foxit Reader

    Foxit Reader is an Adobe Reader substitute.  It is lightweight and free.  Foxit Reader has a premium version that allows for editing and annotation of PDF files.

    One drawback is the integration with the browser.  It does not integrate very well.  If you want to view PDF files in your web browser, this is not the right tool for you.  They are working on this issue, but it is not as seamless as Adobe’s Reader.


    Ever want to send someone a PDF version of the file you are working on?  Here is a great way to do it, PrimoPDF becomes a printer on your system.  When you are ready to create a PDF you just print to the PrimoPDF printer and create a PDF file.


    For home virus protection on my PC, I use Avast! Home Edition.  While I it is not always reviewed at the top of the charts when virus software is rated, my family has been using Avast! for several years with success.

    For the home edition, you do have to register every year to continue receiving the updates to the virus definitions.


    Do you have several IM accounts?  One on Yahoo!, AIM, and GoogleTalk?  Pidgin is one program that will connect to all of your IM accounts and keep your system tray clean.  Management of your IM accounts in one place is a time saver.


    I maintain a few small websites.  Komposer is a easy tool that allows you to do both HTML and WYSIWYG editing of webpages.  It is an update to Nvu.  I was hopefull that this tool would be updated more, but it has been a bit stagnant.  It does the job, I just wish it was being updated.


    There are a ton of FTP tools available.  FileZilla has fit the bill on a number of occasions where other tools failed.  It has the ability to FTP on a secure basis as well.  I have used this both at home for my personal sites as well as projects in my professional life.

    It has a multipane layout that is easy to use.


    Microsoft defrag is ok, but there are better tools to defrag your hard drive.  I have had good luck with JKDefrag.  It has a command line utility and a Windows based interface.  It also has a screen saver utility that will defrag while your PC is idle.

    While I promote OO.o as an alternative to Microsoft Office, I am not a regular user.  I have legal copies of Microsoft Office for my PCs, so I have had less need for a free office suite.  However, as I add PCs to my family, is the office suite choice for me

    Do you have some programs that you would like me to add to this list?  Tell me about them.

    Paste Plain Text into Microsoft Word

    November 13th, 2008

    Do you copy text from one document or web-page and then paste it into Microsoft Word?

    Do you want the formatting to be the same as the rest of your Word document, or the same format as the document you copied?

    Most of the time, I prefer the pasted text to be in the format of the current document.  If I need to alter the text, indent, bullet, etc…I can do that later.

    It is rather easy to Paste Special/Unformatted Text in Word.

    1. From either the Edit menu or the Home Ribbon, choose Paste Special
    2. Choose Unformatted Text from the dialog box
    3. Click OK.

    For those of us who prefer to use Ctrl-V when we paste, that choice is not available.

    I read a tip many years ago about changing the function of the Ctrl-V shortcut keys to execute Paste Unformatted Text.

    In simple terms, you create a macro and assign it to Ctrl-V.  Downside, if you want to paste including formatting, or another type of Paste Special, you will have to use the menu.

    For Word 2007

    1. Open a blank document
    2. Navigate to the Developer Tab in the ribbon (did I tell you I cannot get used to the ribbon?) – If you do not have the Developer Tab on your ribbon, go to the bottom of this post for a tip.
    3. Click the Record Macro button
    4. Name your Macro, “PasteUnformatted” is a good one
    5. Click the Keyboard button
    6. Press Ctrl-V on your keyboard
    7. Click the Assign button
    8. Click the Close button
    9. The Macro Recorder is running, but since Word 2007 does not seem to record this macro correctly, click on the Stop Recording button
    10. Click on the Macros button
    11. Choose “PasteUnformatted” from the list and click on the Edit button
    12. You will see the code for any macros in this document.  Find the PasteUnformatted code.  It should look like this:

      Sub PasteUnformatted()

      ‘ PasteUnformatted Macro

      End Sub

    13. Add the line:
      Selection.PasteSpecial DataType:=wdPasteText
      so that it looks like this:

      Sub PasteUnformatted()

      ‘ PasteUnformatted Macro

      Selection.PasteSpecial DataType:=wdPasteText
      End Sub

    14. Close the editor, it will save automatically
    15. Test out your new keystrokes.
    16. Copy some text from a web-page
    17. Navigate to Word 2007
    18. Paste using the Ctrl-V keys then try using the button in the ribbon.
    19. They should be different, unless the web-page was formatted exactly like your Word document.

    For Word 2003 – the process is very similar

    1. Open a blank document
    2. Choose Tools/Macro/Record New Macro from the menu.
      Name your Macro, “PasteUnformatted” is a good one
    3. Click the Keyboard button
    4. Press Ctrl-V on your keyboard
    5. Click the Assign button
    6. Click the Close button
    7. The Macro Recorder is running, but since Word 2003 does not seem to record this macro correctly, click on the Stop Recording button or choose Tools/Macro/Stop Recording from the menu
    8. Choose Tools/Macro/Macros from the menu
    9. Choose “PasteUnformatted” from the list and click on the Edit button
    10. You will see the code for any macros in this document.  Find the PasteUnformatted code.  It should look like this:

      Sub PasteUnformatted()

      ‘ PasteUnformatted Macro

      End Sub

    11. Add the line:
      Selection.PasteSpecial DataType:=wdPasteText
      so that it looks like this:

      Sub PasteUnformatted()

      ‘ PasteUnformatted Macro

      Selection.PasteSpecial DataType:=wdPasteText
      End Sub

    12. Close the editor, it will save automatically
    13. Test out your new keystrokes.
    14. Copy some text from a web-page
    15. Navigate to Word 2003
    16. Paste using the Ctrl-V keys then try using the button in the ribbon.
    17. They should be different, unless the web-page was formatted exactly like your Word document.

    That is all there is to it.  It is quite a few steps, but in about 5 minutes you can save yourself lots of time later.  Let me know how it works for you!



    1. Click on the Office Button
    2. Click on the Word Options button
    3. Choose Popular
    4. There should be a check box next to “Show Developer Tab in the Ribbon” — Check that box.
    5. Click OK
    6. The Developer tab should be in your Ribbon now.

    Remote control of PCs

    November 10th, 2008

    Have you ever wished you could see your client’s PC from your own office? Or wanted to help a family member figure out how to make some edits to an Excel spreadsheet?

    There are several tools that you can use to control another PC remotely. I have used these three:

    VNC tends to be faster than all the rest, but is much more technical and complicated to set up and run. It works great, I recommend UltraVNC as my VNC choice.

    PCAnywhere was used by one of my former employers. It worked well, was fairly easy to use, and fit into our corporate network. It did require the client to provide the help desk with the IP address of the PC we were going to control. That could sometimes be difficult. You could have multiple sessions open to help multiple users at the same time. Additionally, the licenses are not cheap for occasional usage.

    I use LogMeIn to help family and friends with their PCs. Once the client software is installed on the remote PC, very little maintenance is required. The remote user can disable the software if they would prefer not allowing remote access without their permission or authorization. Additionally, there are settings to require permission from the remote user to access the PC.

    LogMeIn has several premium versions that have a subscription fee associated with them. I have used the free version for several years with great success.


    • Free
    • Works with firewalls that I have used. (Norton, Kerio, SPF)
    • Only requires browser for the local PC
    • No IP address information needs to be relayed.
    • Several security options are available.


    • Enable/Disable feature on remote PC is not perfect.
    • Requires account password to install remote client (might want to change it to something you can share while installing it, then changing it to something more secure for yourself)
    • Data travels through LogMeIn’s servers, it is not point-to-point.
    • File transfer is not available on the free version.

    I suggest that you try out LogMeIn and judge for yourself.

    A couple of things to remember:

    1. If you are installing on a “remote” PC that you will not be sitting in front of while it the client software is installed, you will have to provide the person working on that PC your LogMeIn user id and password to start the installation.

    2. Depending on the configuration of the remote PC, you will need to set up an access code. If the PC is setup for users with passwords, those end up being the access codes. Therefore, the remote PC might need to have an additional user id added to it for you to use to access it. This will depend on the security setup on the remote PC and your relationship with the PC’s owner. For example, since I maintain and support my parent’s PC, I have the user id’s and passwords for their PC’s. They don’t have an issue with that. In the case of friends, I have had them set up a user id for me that they can disable later.

    Let me know how LogMeIn works for you. I’m a satisfied, free, customer.

    Social Bookmarking

    November 2nd, 2008

    I have used social bookmarking primarily to keep track of places on the web that I want to visit later or keep track of.

    The option to share those links with other people is good, as long as you remain fairly organized.  Just bookmarking for bookmarking sake is will not be helpful for other people.

    The ability to search the bookmarks for keywords and find things you want to share with others is cool too.

    While Delicious is a favorite of many, I have been using for several years.

    Bookmarks and favorites are a great way to store and access frequently used locations on the Internet. Furl is designed to archive (as well as share) anything you read online. You may have tens of bookmarks but thousands of Furl entries. If you read your local newspaper online every morning, bookmark it. If you read several fascinating news articles every week, Furl them. You can Furl items from work and home. You can search for them later from any browser, and share them with friends.

    My Furl page is at

    Furl allows me to bookmark pages and share what I would like to share and keep private bookmarks I would like to keep private.

    Try it out.  Add some topics, comments, clip a section, and add keywords.

    Let me know how it works for you.

    Yahoo! Messenger Status on a Blog

    October 30th, 2008

    Yahoo! Messenger is a very popular choice for IM.

    It easy to use and chat with your co-workers and friends in real time rather than email.

    I realized that sometimes I may post something here that needs further explanation.  One way to allow me to interact with my readers is to post my online status right here on the blog.

    So, how do you put a Yahoo! Messenger online status button in your blog?  You can see mine in the right hand column as an example.

    It is fairly simple, you need the following code:

    <a href=”ymsgr:sendIM?YAHOO_MSGR_ID”>
    <img border=”0? src=”> </a>

    Carefully replace the YAHOO_MSGR_ID with our Yahoo! Messenger ID.

    For example, my Yahoo! ID is WheatonTech.  The code I am using in this blog is:

    <a href=”ymsgr:sendIM?wheatontech”>
    <img border=”0? src=”> </a>

    There is a choice of 3 different styles.  This is set by the “t=” portion of the code.

    Style "1" is
    Style "2" is
    Style "3" is

    Each style is chosen with a number, set the "t=" to the number matching the style you want to use, I used "2".

    Just copy this code and insert it into your website or blog HTML and you are on your way.

    When you are logged into Y! Messenger, your website should show the online picture.  Try it out!

    If you have a question or comment, post it here.  If you would like to chat about this post, see if I am online!

    Technology for “us” and RSS Feeds

    October 29th, 2008

    On Thursday I attended the Technology Leaders Association monthly networking meeting.  Jim McGee spoke about Technology for “us”.

    One of his points was that many new technologies require you to use them before you can understand them.  I tend to agree with him, much like you cannot really understand baseball until you play it.

    A tool that I have found very useful for me, yet I find few friends or co-workers who use it is RSS.

    As of today, Wikipedia defines RSS as:

    RSS is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works – such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video – in a standardized format. An RSS document (which is called a “feed”, “web feed”, or “channel”) includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship.

    I call it a way to simplify how you interact with the web.  This is a way to get content, or content summaries, delivered to you without cluttering up your mailbox.  Think of it as a newspaper box.

    I subscribe to many web feeds, some are published daily, weekly, monthly, or only occasionally.  Subscribing solves at least two problems:

    1. It keeps a list of the publications I like to read on a regular basis.
    2. It tells me when there is something new to read, I don’t have to go to the web page each day to see if there is something new, or, for example, remember to go every Monday to see the latest article.

    Confused?  Actually, I expected that.  This is something that has to be used to be understood.

    There are at least two tools–actually there are many tools, but here are two–you can use to subscribe to RSS feeds:  A stand alone feed reader like FeedReader, or my favorite, the Google Reader.

    Once you have set up your reader, you can find links on websites for RSS or web feeds.  Generally all you need to do is click on the link to begin the subscription.  To subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed, click here.

    I find the Google Reader my favorite.  It is portable, you just need web access to get to it.

    As you begin to find more and more RSS feeds, you will find that your reading is organized in one place.  You may have to click through to the primary site for the article for many of your feeds, but you knew it was ready to read.

    Here are a few of my favorite feeds:

    Download Squad – Software Reviews and Tips

    Chicagoist – Blog about the Windy City

    Curt Cavin – IndyCar Blog

    Notre Dame Observer Newspaper

    Since I use the Google Reader, I could share my favorite feeds with you on a daily basis.  If you are interested in seeing what feeds I have *shared*, leave me a note and I will consider it.