Utilities

The little tools that make you more efficient using other tools - including the computer itself.

Name Comments
ClipMate

What it Does: Enhances the windows clipboard dramatically
Runs on: PC only
Price: $20
Best Feature: Efficiency of doing multiple copies from a document and then pasting in another.
Worst Feature: Two different "views" or"modes" can be confusing.
Learning Time: Minutes --- Export/Import: Good
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: Remembers copy and paste (clipboard) functionality - and much more - includes a good screen capture (making an image file of something on the screen). Use it if you do a lot of copy and paste.
Review & Comments about ClipMate in Academic Tools Blog
Direct Update

What it Does: Allows connecting computers over the internet that normally are hidden.
TechSpeak - Allows creating an apparent "static" IP address to computers forced to connecting using DHCP.
Runs on: PC only
Price: $19
Uniqueness: It's one of only a few tools to provide this combination of functions
Best Feature: Allows publishing a single address for your machine - for web server, ftp, remote control
Worst Feature: Must also sign up for a free DNS account elsewhere - the program suggests where.
Learning Time: Half Hour ---
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: Techie: Useful only for those wanting their machine accessible, but using a non-static IP - e.g. most campus computers and home DSL computers.
FileZilla

What it Does: File Transfer over internet
Runs on: PC only
Free
Best Feature: Straightforward FTP file transfer.
Worst Feature: Somewhat quirky interface.
Learning Time: Half Hour ---
My use: Infrequent --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: FTP client - for file transfer between FTP sites - e.g. to a web server like Dunx1. For many users just using Internet Explorer works well.
Find and Run Robot

What it Does: Finds things you use regularly on your machine
Runs on: PC only
Free
Best Feature: Quick easy way of starting many programs and files.
Worst Feature: A bit slow finding files not used regularly.
Learning Time: Minutes ---
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: A near-ideal tool for a single purpose. Once you're comfortable with it you should explore the capability of customizing the "rules" it uses to sort what it finds.
Review & Comments about Find and Run Robot in Academic Tools Blog
Firefox

What it Does: Web browser
Runs on: PC, Mac, Linux
Free, Open Source
Best Feature: Add-ins that provide additional fucntions.
Worst Feature: Many large institutions are not friendly to FF - e.g. Drexel.
Learning Time: Half Hour ---
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: I use Adblock, NoScript, and All-In-One Sidebar extensions a lot.
Utility note: My current favorite web browser.
Review & Comments about Firefox in Academic Tools Blog
Foldershare

What it Does: Synchronize files on multiple machines via web
Runs on: PC, Mac - Uses Web
Free
Uniqueness: It's one of only a few tools to provide this combination of functions
Best Feature: Automatic backup of files protects against hardware failure.
Worst Feature: If you delete a file on one machine it deletes it on all.
Learning Time: Hours ---
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: A web-basede srvice (MS now owns it) for synchronizing files between multiple machines. It takes a bit of thought to set up, but works wonderfully in the background.
You should still backup separately.

Review & Comments about Foldershare in Academic Tools Blog
Google Search Tips

What it Does: How to search effectively via Google
Runs on: Web
Free
Best Feature: Can focus/narrow searches
Worst Feature: Must memorize to be effective.
Learning Time: Minutes ---
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: My most useful is "site:drexel.edu" - it finds stuff that Drexel search engine buries.
Utility note: To make Google more effective
Review & Comments about Google Search Tips in Academic Tools Blog
Jv16 PowerTools

What it Does: Tools for fixing windows problems and tweaking it.
Runs on: PC only
Price: $30
Best Feature: Clean up the "registry" in Windows - often fixes problems.
Worst Feature: Mysterious to novices. Takes a lot of faith to use it.
Learning Time: Hours ---
My use: Regular --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: This is probably a semi-expert tool though the author tries hard to make it simple.
LapLink

What it Does: Remote computer operation and file transfer
Runs on: PC only
Price: $110
Best Feature: Detailed file synchronization between computers.
Worst Feature: Sometimes flaky.
Learning Time: Hours ---

Comment: There are several competitors, most noticeably the free Foldershare. I still use Laplink.
Linkman

What it Does: URL storage and retrieval
Runs on: PC only - Uses Web
Price: $30
Best Feature: Great control and search in a large collection of URL's
Worst Feature: Not being further developed.
Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Good
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: There are many URL capture tools, most of them are free. This one is useful only for someone capturing a lot and wanting to run searches.
Utility note: Enhances web use
Neo

What it Does: Outlook enhancement - Search, to-do, filing
Runs on: PC only
Price: $35
Best Feature: Multiple ways to see only the EMails you want without deleting the unwanted permanently.
Worst Feature: Works only with Outlook.
Immediately Useful: Yes --- Learning Time: Hours ---
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: If you get more than 20 EMails a day this will save you a great deal of time. It allows easy organization of your EMail traffic and tagging of "to-do".
Keep an eye in future on "Chandler", a developing Opensource product.
Utility note: To enhance Outlook
NetVibes

What it Does: Create your own "portal" with favorite links and "feeds"
Runs on: Web
Free
Best Feature: Your home page contains only what you want.
Worst Feature: Keeping multiple links updated can be time consuming.
Learning Time: Half Hour --- Export/Import: Poor
My use: Regular --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: Many alternatives. This is a fast-changing area so it may be superseded next week.
Onfolio

What it Does: Web clip, page and note taking
Runs on: PC only
Free
Best Feature: Good interface
Worst Feature: MS is limiting it to IE and removing features (academic) that were useful.
Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Medium
My use: Infrequent --- Confidence in Evaluation: Medium
Comment: If you use Internet Explorer it's a very good, free tool to collect and report web-based information.
Utility note: Enhances web use
PowerPro

What it Does: Many, many shortcuts (macros) for windows
Runs on: PC only
Free, Open Source
Best Feature: Make your own custom key combinations to do almost anything.
Worst Feature: Takes quite a lot of effort to make it worthwhile.
Immediately Useful: Yes --- Learning Time: Hours ---
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: I use it probably the most of all these tools, but it took a while to be comfortable with it.
Roboform

What it Does: Store and fill web forms and logins
Runs on: PC only
Price: $30
Uniqueness: It's one of only a few tools to provide this combination of functions
Best Feature: Shopping online is vastly simplified - one-click filling of those horrible forms
Worst Feature: Interface can be a bit daunting at first.
Learning Time: Half Hour --- Export/Import: Poor
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: Remembers passwords and identities. The have a portable version (Pass2Go) as well. Makes it easy to have a separate login for each website = safer.
Spreadsheet Assistant

What it Does: Excel macros to improve heavy-user efficiency
Runs on: PC only
Price: $40
Uniqueness: It's one of only a few tools to provide this combination of functions
Best Feature: The added features become "natural" - such as "select to end" of column or row.
Worst Feature: You have to pay for it.
Learning Time: Hours ---
My use: Regular --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: Not likely to be useful for somebody who doesn't regularly use Excel.
Review & Comments about Spreadsheet Assistant in Academic Tools Blog
VPN Client

What it Does: Work away from home as if on campus -Virtual Private Network
Runs on: PC, Mac, Linux - Uses Web
Drexel Site License
Best Feature: Use Outlook at home.
Worst Feature: Cannot print to local network printer at home when connected to VPN.
Learning Time: Half Hour ---
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: It ought to be possible to connect to campus servers when using the VPN, but I've not been successful recently.

 

 

Update: 2006-11-26