Favorite: Shrinkify

I have written before that TinyURL Creator is one of my favorite Firefox extensions. That is no more. I have a new favorite: Shrinkify. Both of these extensions do the same thing. Namely, they take a really long web address and convert it into something that is short and easily used.

For example, if you search for Shrinkify on Google, the search results web address is: http://www.google.com/search?q=shrinkify&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

That same address shrinkified is http://shrinkify.com/837. Similarly, the same address in a TinyURL is http://tinyurl.com/6ao2m4.

Given that both of these do the same thing and both are accessed in the same manner (right click on the web page), one may wonder why I prefer Shrinkify over TinyURL Creator. That answer is simple. When I shrinkify a web address, I temporarily get a black band across the top of my screen telling me what the URL is. When I use TinyURL Creator, I get a box that tells me the URL. With TinyURL Creator, however, I have to click the box closed to make it go away. With Shrinkify, the information goes away automatically. Thus, Shrinkify saves me an entirely unnecessary mouse click.

If you aren’t using anything to shrink your URLs, I encourage you to try one or both of these services. Both work fine and will make your URL life much more simple.

Favorites: Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional

AdobeI often see people complaining about the costs of Adobe Acrobat and, as a result, seeking a lower cost alternative to creating PDFs. I am not here to justify the costs of Acrobat ($449 retail for a full version of Acrobat 8 Professional). However, I would note that, if you already own a copy of Acrobat, the upgrade is rather reasonably priced ($159).

There is no doubt that you can find less expensive solutions to create PDFs. For example, Word Perfect will natively create a PDF. However, creating a PDF is only the first step in a paperless filing system. In addition to creating PDFs, you also need to be able to manage, annotate, or otherwise handle those PDFs. I have yet to find a less expensive solution that gives me the power that I find in Acrobat Professional, version 8.

Last week I talked about how I do all of my commenting or highlighting on cases in Acrobat. This way I always have my annotated copies of the cases with me. This practice saves me If you have ever unsuccessfully tried to find the copy of a case that you made your notes on, you know how much a timesaver this can be.

In addition to the annotation and commenting features, there are also several other features about Acrobat that I really like and use on a regular basis.

  1. The Typewriter Tool. This tool, which Adobe added in an update to version 7, allows you to type on PDFs just as if you were using a typewriter. This tool is invaluable when it comes to filling out forms from organizations that refuse to provide the forms electronically. I also use this tool to complete forms that people fax to me. My fax arrives via email. I open the PDF. Complete the form. And then fax or email the form back to the sender, all without having ever printed anything.
  2. Combining PDFs. Version 8 contains new wizards to assist you in combining PDFs to create one PDF or a PDF package. I typically find wizards annoying. In this case, however, I think Adobe has done an excellant job of creating wizards that help, rather than hinder, someone combining PDFs.
  3. Speaking of wizards, when creating a PDF from an Excel file, Acrobat asks you which sheets you want to include in the PDF. This is a great feature. I don’t know how many times I had to create the same PDF multiple times because I had forgotten to tell Excel to print all all of the sheets to PDF.
  4. Redaction. Version 8 Professional includes a great redaction tool to allow you to remove sensitive data from your PDF. This is invaluable in making sure that you do not disclose privileged or confidential information. The tool is easy to use and I am glad to see that Adobe added it to the program, thus saving you the additional time and cost of finding and using a plug-in.
  5. Bates Stamping. Another way in which Adobe has eliminated the need for the use of a plug-in is in Bates Stamping. The Professional version now allows you to easily stamp (or remove your Acrobat applied stamps) from a PDF. This a great feature that I use regularly in discovery.

The program has several more features that I love and use regularly. However, I think I will pause my list at this point.

If you haven’t tried to leverage the full power of Acrobat, download a 30 day free trial and see what Acrobat can do for you.

Favorite: The Cellet Treo Holster

Given that I am talking about secure holders for my Treo. I thought now would be a good time to mention my favorite Treo holster. It is the Treo Rubberized holster made by Cellet. One reason that I love this holster is that it holds my Treo with the screen toward the inside, thus providing greater protection.

Treo HolsterAdditionally, the holster securely holds my Treo. When my Treo is in the holster, I do not fear that it is going to fall out. Related to this, the rubberized coating that covers the holster allows me to firmly hold the holstered Treo securely in my hand.

Like most holsters, it also contains a multi-position belt clip. This belt clip is very secure as well. In fact, the one minor quibble that I have with the holster is that the belt clip is too secure sometimes and I have trouble getting the holster off.

Although the retail price on this holster is $29.95, it is currently available from Wireless Ground for $9.95. Wireless Ground also offers free shipping on orders over $50. For orders less than $50, the shipping fee is a flat $3.95. Thus, you can get a great Treo holster for less than $15. Who can beat that?

Favorites: Bug Me Not

I received some questions on the Bug Me Not aspect of my favorite Firefox Extensions post. Therefore I will go into Bug Me Not a little more extensively.

Bug Me Not describes itself in its FAQ as:

BugMeNot.com was created as a mechanism to quickly bypass the login of web sites that require compulsory registration and/or the collection of personal/demographic information (such as the New York Times).

In a nutshell some users register for websites that require registration. These users then share the information with the Bug Me Not website, which makes it available to anyone who uses it site. This means that anyone can access the particular site by using the other information rather than having to register for themselves.

According to the Bug Me Not website, the most popular site include the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and IMDB.

Some people may question whether it is ethical to use a service such as Bug Me Not. If this question interests you, you should join the discussion. On the flip side, Bug Me Not will voluntarily block a site from its service if:

  • The users pay to access information on the site; or
  • The site requires users to register to post comments, but does not require registration to view information; or
  • There is a risk of fraud.

I myself take a two pronged approach. On sites I regularly use that require registration (for example Chicago Tribune) I fill out their registration. I figure that they are regularly providing me with information. I can provide them some information about their readership.

If, however, the Dayton Daily News has a interesting news story one day, I don’t want to have to fill out a complicated form to read a single news story in a newspaper that I will never read again.

To use Bug Me Not, you can go to their website and search for the website you are using. Alternatively, you can install the Firefox Extension for Bug Me Not. This extension allows you to log in to website simply by right clicking in the user name field and choose Login Using Bug Me Not.

Both the extension and the service are easy to use. If you have ever been frustrated by one of those mandatory registrations, then this extension and service are for you.

Favorites: Firefox Extensions

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my favorite aspect of Firefox is that I can customize it using Extensions. Below are my favorite Firefox extensions, provided in alphabetical order.

Bug Me Not (the extension) allows you to use Bug Me Not (the service) to access websites requiring registration without having to divulge your private information or completing the annoying registrations.

Colorful Tabs makes each of your tabs a different color. Sure this extension has no practical purpose, but it sure does make the browser prettier.

Copy Plain Text allows you to copy text from web pages and paste it as plain text.

Down Them All allows you to download several files from a web page at once. A nifty extension that is absolutely invaluable in those situations where it is needed.

Forecast Fox places information in your status bar at the bottom of your web browser to tell you the current temperature and the forecast.

IE Tab allows you to open a web page in Internet Explorer in a Firefox tab.

IE View allows you to open a particular web page in Internet Explorer. You can also mark certain pages to always be opened in Internet Explorer. This extension is necessary because some short-sighted people refuse to make their web compatible with Firefox.

Image Zoom allows you to zoom in or out on a particular image.

Map+ allows you to easily view a map of a selected address.

Tab Mix Plus provides you with several options to customize your tabs. One of the best customizations is the ability to put a close tab x on both the tab and the tab bar. This extension may disable other tab modifying extensions that you have.

Tiny URL Creator allows you to create a Tiny URL simply by right clicking on a web page. I use this extension all of the time when I am sending links to other people.

Track Package allows you to track a package from a web page or email simply by selecting the tracking number and selecting track package. It currently works with UPS, USPS, FedEX, DHL, and a couple of other services.

Favorites: Firefox

I am a big fan of Firefox and have been using it as my primary web browser for a little more than two years. The tabbed browsing is a great feature (and one that was incorporated into the latest version of Internet Explorer). Additionally, Firefox 2.0 integrates very nicely with RSS feeds.

Firefox also allows you to customize how the browser looks by allowing you to download and install different themes.
The best feature, of Firefox, however, is that there are hundreds of extensions that you can use to customize Firefox to make it work the way the you want it to. I have several extensions that I use regularly. Because I have several favorite extensions, however, I will make those the subject of a later post.

Favorites: Network Unplugged

For about three years I have used a laptop as my primary computer. I love the portability of it and would never consider going back to a desktop model. When I first switched to a laptop, however, I had problems keeping track of whether the most current version of a file resided on my laptop’s hard drive or whether it was on our network server. I now no longer have that concern. With Mobiliti’s Network Unplugged, I know that any local file I work on will automatically be synchronized with the network file when I return to the office.

Before finding Network Unplugged, I had tried making my network files available offline by using the utility built into Windows. I found this to be a less than ideal solution, however, because Windows simply dumped all of the files in a single folder. I wanted to be able to navigate to my files the same way I would if I were connected to the network.

Network Unplugged creates a virtual network on my laptop that allows me to access the network files that I designate regardless of whether I am connected to the network. Further, the program preserves all of the file path names. Thus, whether I am connected to the network is now irrelevant to my computing. When I am away from the office, I work on the file stored in the virtual network. When I return to the office, I simply synchronize the files.

Installing the program was quite easy and took only a few minutes. Once the program was installed, it was just as easy to select the folders that I wanted the program to synchronize. I began by creating a “project.” In the program terms, a project is a name you give to a group of related files. You can define a project as broadly or as narrowly as you like. Additionally, you can have as many projects as you want. I created a single project for my network files.

After creating the project, I then designated the folders that I wanted to be available to me when I was no longer connected to my network. Using My Computer, I dragged and dropped the folders that I wanted into my project. Once I did this, I told the program to synchronize.

I had selected several folders for synchronization. Thus the first synchronization took several minutes. After that first synchronization, however, my subsequent synchronizations take about two minutes. Also, I can easily add additional folders to my project by simply dragging that folder and dropping it in the project.

Network Unplugged works by creating a virtual network on my laptop. Thus, the number of files I want to have available to me are limited only by my hard drive space. If my hard drive were big enough, I could take all of my network files with me.

When I am connected to the network, I work just as I normally would. When I am disconnected, I have available to me the folders and files that I had earlier designated. I access the files just as I would if I were still connected to the network. From my perspective, the only difference that I see when I am disconnected is that the folders I did not synchronize are not present. Otherwise, I would never know that I am not connected to the network.

In addition to allowing me to virtually work on my network. Network Unplugged also allows me to easily back up the data on my laptop. Establishing a backup project, was no different from establishing a synchronization project. I simply named the project and selected the data folders I wanted to backup. In addition to backing up my data files, Network Unplugged will also backup my registry and it will synchronize any two folders that I designate.

I can tell the program to synchronize all projects at the same time or I can select different synchronization properties for each project. Also, I can set the program to automatically synchronize at a particular time every day, to automatically synchronize every time I reconnect to the network, and to automatically synchronize when I shutdown. Alternatively I can set the program to take no action at those times or to prompt me and ask me if I want to synchronize. In short, the program allows me to customize my synchronization schedule to whatever best suits my needs.

The best thing about Network Unplugged, however, is that it allows me to use CaseMap and TextMap with minimal fuss. I no longer have to worry about making sure that I have a local copy of my linked files. Instead, I now know that the file paths for all of my files are the same, even when I am not connected to the network. Thus CaseMap, or any other similar program, need not search for linked files. Instead, the files reside on my virtual network in the exact same location that they reside on my real network.

I have a fondness for programs that do one thing and do it well. Network Unplugged surpasses this criteria in that it does one thing and does it exceptionally well. Everyone who uses a laptop as their primary computer should own this program.