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Topics - johnk [ switch to compact view ]

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Found Deals and Discounts / Take Command (jpsoftware) $50
« on: February 20, 2012, 08:02 AM »
Command prompt toolkit sometimes discussed here, "coming soon" at BDJ.

Site/Forum Features / Tapatalk
« on: September 22, 2011, 12:36 PM »
I've just started using the Communities app on WebOS for accessing web forums (which uses the same technology as Tapatalk on iOS/Android/WP7/Blackberry) and noticed that DC isn't on the list of forums that can be accessed.

I searched this forum and only found one mention of Tapatalk, which is surprising as it seems to be popular, certainly in the iOS and Android worlds.

The blurb for Communities says that supporting Tapatalk is "as easy as copying a folder, and free". So I wonder if I could request that Mouser look into the possibility of allowing Tapatalk access?

Mini-Reviews by Members / E Text Editor - a very mini review
« on: November 11, 2010, 07:00 PM »
Basic Info

App NameE Text Editor
App Version ReviewedV.2.0b
Test System SpecsWindows XP SP3
Support MethodsForum, email
Upgrade PolicyPaid upgrades, $19 for v2
Trial Version Available?One month trial
Pricing Scheme$46.95
Screencast Video URL

A Very mini review:

This is a mini mini-review of E. There are many people on this forum who code for a living, and who are in a much better position to judge the overall quality of a text editor.

I'm going to concentrate on what makes E stand out for me. I don't code for a living, but I do seem to end up quite often having to deal with HTML, and recently, I discovered Markdown. For those who are unaware, Markdown is text-to-HTML conversion tool. Markdown has a very simple, easy-to-use syntax, that means you can include your Markdown code as you write, and then use the Markdown tool to create an HTML file when you're finished.

An example helps to make it clear. In Markdown: <br />
<code>**bold words**</code> is in bold, <code>*italic*</code> is in italic.

an HTML H2 heading is <br />
<code>## Heading goes here</code>

And so on. Easy to write as you go. But it's never become widely popular because it is essentially a command line tool. Mac users had their fancy TextMate text editor, with its Markdown bundle to make life easier. The rest of us just ignored Markdown.

Well, as anyone with an interest in text editors knows, E brings Textmate bundles to Windows. Great. But I wanted more. I wanted built-in preview of my Markdown code. Actually, I wanted live as-you-type preview of my Markdown code. And if I'm being really greedy, I wanted live preview of any kind of code, because I don't actually use Markdown, I use MultiMarkdown, a more obscure off-shoot of Markdown (Why? For those who are interested, see the footnote).

And E actually ticks all those boxes. If there's another text editor out there at a reasonable price that can achieve those things, I've yet to find it. How does it do it? Well E allows you to use the "transformation command" (conversion program/script) of your choice to create the preview. Markdown and Textile, another popular HTML markup engine, are built in to E. But with a few minutes playing around, I had E using the MultiMarkdown engine to create the live preview. (I just had to add some MultiMarkdown files to the appropriate folder in E, and then type the name of the MultiMarkdown engine in the text field at the bottom of the preview window). The MultiMarkdown E bundle (which can be found on the MultiMarkdown web site), offers syntax highlighting and other nice things. Click for the large image and you can see a sample page using MultiMarkdown code, and the preview in E.


It's not often you get your dreams answered. And as E is one of this month's special offers, I thought this was worth a mention. I can't be the only one who finds that live preview saves time. And I also thought that Markdown and its relations were worth a mention. Detailed info on the live preview feature here.

Other than bundles and the live preview, I actually find E to be a rather ordinary text editor. I prefer EmEditor for most things. And feedback in the E forums is not all good. Read them before you invest. But the live MultiMarkdown preview was certainly enough to open my wallet.

One other item of interest to mention - E is open source. Plenty more on that in the E forums.

MultiMarkdown: The original creator of Markdown wanted to keep it as a very simple tool (or had no interest in developing it further, depending on which web site you read). So it doesn't offer niceties such as footnotes or metadata or bibliography support, or what I would consider essentials such as the ability to specify an image size, or tables. Well, the developer of MultiMarkdown added all of those and other features as well, making it a better all-round tool for most purposes. Markdown and MultiMarkdown also use SmartyPants, which translates plain ASCII punctuation characters into “smart” typographic punctuation (e.g. straight quotes become curly quotes). One word of warning if you try these out -- the MultiMarkdown bundle is aimed at the Mac (Textmate) rather than Windows, and needs a bit of code tweaking to work with E (another hour of my life lost).

Links to other reviews of this application
Not much that I can find (the name doesn't help when you're Googling). Here are a couple of old reviews.

I'm cross-posting this item from this thread, as I imagine it will be of interest to many members, and it might get lost in the other thread:

TopStyle will be available at a 50% discount on BDJ on August 5.

Handy Folders is available at a 50% discount on BitsduJour today.

For me, FileBox eXtender (now free) achieves the same goal, but I'd be interested to hear from Handy Folders users on the benefits they see in the program.

General Software Discussion / Reliable web page capture...
« on: July 11, 2008, 12:53 PM »
In my endless quest/obsession to find the perfect information manager, I've decided that one of the key features for me is reliable web page capture. Not pixel perfect. But close enough. There are lots of other features I'm willing to compromise on, but not that one.

Now you wouldn't think that would be a problem. But it is. Most of the information managers we know and love just are not as reliable as they should be. I have licences for three of the best -- Ultra Recall, Surfulater and Evernote. All claim that web page capture is part of their feature set.

And yet compared to the free Firefox add-on Scrapbook, their performance is variable, to say the least. Pictures speak louder than words, so here's a comparison of the three programs I mention above with Scrapbook, and web capture specialists Local Website Archive and WebResearch Pro.

I took a page from a mainstream site (BBC News) that I knew would present a decent challenge.

Firefox-500x455.png (original page in Firefox)

Scrapbook-500x455.png (Scrapbook) LWA-500x443.png (Local Website Archive) WR-500x463.png (WebResearch Pro)

UR-500x475.png (Ultra Recall) Surf attach-500x455.png (Surfulater) Evernote-493x500.png (Evernote)

As you can see the three programs that major on web page capture do an excellent job. Scrapbook is faultless as ever.

Ultra Recall, Surfulater and Evernote are all ugly and broken. Yes, all the content is there, but it's not as pleasant or easy to read, and not recognizable as the original page.

If a free browser add-on can manage faultless web capture, I can't see why the power user information managers can't do the same. Web Research Pro takes a lazy (but very clever) route to perfect pages -- it uses the Scrapbook engine to capture pages. Why can't other programs do the same thing?

I'm trying to reduce the number of programs I use. I want to use one program for web capture and information management. Seems logical and should be achievable. But I'm still looking...

EDIT: A new version of Ultra Recall improves web page capture -- see further post below.

Living Room / XP boot-up problem
« on: March 22, 2008, 12:05 PM »
My main PC (Windows XP SP2) behaves itself very well -- apart from when it boots up.

The desktop appears as normal.  However, for about 10 - 15 minutes after booting up, there are a lot of things the system won't do. Essentially, system files seem to be locked down.  The easiest thing is to give examples:

I cannot install programs (that write to the registry), or indeed edit the registry at all. I cannot use IE, or any program that uses the IE system files, but I can use Firefox. I can't access system management utilities (e.g. if I access Start Menu ->Settings->Network Connections, the menu will freeze on the screen until the system "unlocks").

So generally speaking after booting up I just leave the computer for a quarter of an hour or so. I know when it's ready to use, as my mail checker program bursts into life and all the shortcuts on the desktop "blink".

Obviously I've run plenty of virus/spyware checks. The Event Viewer doesn't seem to offer any obvious clues.

The only other odd system behaviour (not sure if it's a clue) is that, when copying/moving files, the system uses huge amounts of CPU activity, much more than other computers I use. In particular, when receiving files from other machines on my network, the system slows down badly and hits 100pc CPU activity, which is odd.  But this happens all the time, so I doubt it is related to my boot up problem.

To be honest I've been putting up with the boot-up glitch for many months because, apart form this, my system is amazingly stable.  I can (and do) leave the system running for days without any problem.  If I need to reboot, I just leave the computer and have a cup of coffee. So it's really not that big an issue. I'd just like to solve it....any ideas?

Fairly specific this, but I have a feeling DC members might have an answer to this one...

I have recently started using AM-Notebook ( I don't think there's been a mini-review of this on DC yet, so hopefully I'll get around to doing one in the next few days.

It has features I have been looking for in a note-taker/note management program. I like the fact that it keeps each note in a separate file. It uses the TRichView components for display (, and saves files in TRichview's native (.rvf) format. I don't have a problem with that, as AM-Notebook can export to RTF or HTML. However I cannot find a way to preview RVF files in explorer. I can normally rely on Directory Opus to preview just about anything, but it doesn't handle RVF files. XP pleads ignorance.

In fact, the only file viewer I have found for RVF files is a plug-in for Total Commander, and I don't intend switching file managers just to preview one file format. All I'm looking for is a quick read-only preview in Explorer. At the moment I can only view RVF files by opening them in AM-Notebook.

I know the obvious place to raise this issue is the AM-Notebook forums, but for some reason they are closed at the moment. Any advice appreciated.

General Software Discussion / Software licences
« on: February 04, 2008, 12:38 PM »
I regularly use three computers -- two desktops and a laptop (and I'm very tempted by the Asus Eee...). I don't think that's unusual these days. But for individuals with multiple PCs, software licences are a headache.

When I evaluate shareware these days, one of the first things I look at is the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA).  And basically, if it's a single machine licence, I'm very unlikely to be interested, no matter how good the software is.

Of course, software developers can use whatever licence they wish. My main gripe is how difficult it can be to find out the licence details.

Two examples: I was interested in buying Backup4All Pro (, but to get the licence details, I had to download the help file PDF and wade through that. And yes, it's a single machine licence.  So that would cost me $135 for my machines (excluding DC discount).  That compares to my current software, SyncbackSE, which costs $30 for a licence that covers up to 5 PCs.  Suddenly Backup4All is a non-runner.

I also recently trialled PageFour ( , the (excellent) text editor aimed at writers. I went searching for the licence details. Not on the web site.  Not in the help file. But I found it in the installation directory. And again it's a single machine licence. Which makes a reasonably-priced piece of software ($35) too expensive for me ($105).

In the case of PageFour, I was so impressed with the software that I emailed the author and asked him about the EULA. He was very positive, recognised the issue, and promised to look into changing it.  I offered him the wording from the licence for Second Copy 2000 as an ideal model:

"One registered copy of Second Copy 2000 may either be used by a single
person who uses the software personally on one or more computers, or
installed on a single workstation used non-simultaneously by multiple
people, but not both."

Which seems just about perfect to me.

The reason for this long-winded post? To suggest there should be some kind of licence scheme where shareware sites have a prominent "badge" on the home page that indicates whether they offer a standard, flexible licence (modeled on something like the Second Copy licence) so that users don't have to waste time investigating the licence for every bit of software they test.  Seems like common sense to me.

Once I decided to cut the strings with the awful Outlook 2007 (https://www.donation...dex.php?topic=8770.0), I started to have a good look around at what I really wanted to do with my email.

Well, firstly I wanted to get away from linking my email with my ISP, to make it easier to swap providers. And I wanted to started using my own domain. And I wanted to have my email available everywhere, while using an email client at home/work, so IMAP seemed a good idea.

So to cut a long story short, I spent a lot of time in the wonderful Email Discussions forums ( and decided on FastMail for my IMAP provider. A decent reputation (though not perfect -- they have had extended outages in the past), a lot of useful features, and a lean web mail interface.

I started using Thunderbird as the client, but although it had a good reputation as an IMAP client, I found it slow. Then I happened on a thread somewhere about "Windows Live Mail Desktop" (now just called Windows Live Mail (WLM)-

I normally keep a close eye out for new email clients, but I hadn't come across this (perhaps because I've tried to ignore the whole Windows Live thing, and I don't use Vista). WLM is generally billed as an update to Outlook Express, although it feels more like a cross between OE and Outlook -- but in a good way. It takes the features I liked from Outlook, including the space-saving two-line message list (the Outlook feature I missed most when I started using Thunderbird):

winmail n.png

Best of all, WLM feels much faster than Outlook, and is much quicker than Thunderbird at pulling down large numbers of headers when using IMAP (in my experience, at any rate). Thankfully, WLM appears to use the IE HTML engine rather than the Word HTML engine, as Outlook 2007 does. WLM is still in beta (although I think this may be the new, Google-style, never-ending beta). But it seems stable. I thought it was worth a mention, as there are so many OE users out there who might not realise they have a new option, which seems in many ways to improve on OE (WLM requires XP SP2 or Vista).

General Software Discussion / Outlook 2007 - a rant
« on: June 05, 2007, 12:03 PM »
In another thread (https://www.donation...index.php?topic=8734), I praised MS's fine OneNote program, and said it showed just what they can do when they try. On the other hand...

Recently I upgraded to Office 2007, and with it to Outlook 2007. Like many people, I live in Outlook. Which is a great shame for me, because Outlook 2007 is horrible.

The main problem is that it's just slow. Now Outlook has never been sleek and nimble, but 2003 was a pretty good program. Glitch-free, for me, and worked quite well. I am growing old watching emails render in Outlook 2007. It is painfully slow. And when the email finally appears, if you're unlucky enough to open an HTML email....Let me give you just one example.

Here's a daily email newsletter I receive from Variety magazine:


And since I "upgraded" to Outlook 2007, here's what I see:


Why? Well, it took some digging to find out, but apparently MS, in its infinite wisdom, decided to stop using the IE HTML engine to render Outlook emails. Now Outlook 2007 uses....MS Word's HTML engine. Really.

A bit more digging, and I found that this is causing plenty of coders endless frustration:

Now I know that some of you will say that maybe it's a good thing. Maybe we'll see a return to the good old days of plain text emails. And yes, I'm one of the old timers too - I always send plain text emails. Unfortunately, the commercial world does not, and will not. So email newsletters, invoices etc, all in HTML, and all at the mercy of Outlook's new excuse for an HTML engine.

I wish I could just shrug my shoulders and say "it's time to move on". But Outlook, and its PDA equivalent, are ingrained in my life. It's going to take some long-term planning to move away.

Finally, I inquired about how I would revert to Outlook 2003, while keeping the rest of Office 2007. Apparently I'd have to uninstall all of Office 2007, install Office 2003, then re-install Office 2007 without Outlook. Oh, and mail merge would be broken. And one or two other things as well...

Mini-Reviews by Members / Microsoft OneNote 2007
« on: May 31, 2007, 06:32 PM »
Basic Info

App NameMicrosoft OneNote 2007
App Version Reviewed2007 (v 2.0)
Test System SpecsWindows XP SP2
Supported OSesWindows XP with SP2, Vista, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, or later
Upgrade PolicyVersion licence. Upgrade price $79.95
Trial Version Available?Yes - 60-day limit - see product home page
Pricing SchemeStandalone price $99.95. Also included in various Microsoft Office editions.

Intro: It's the GUI, stupid: Long ago, I remember posting here about how we judge new programs. I recall saying that a new program had at most 10 minutes to leave a good impression or it was dead.

A memorable recent experience showed just how wrong I was. No program has as long as ten minutes to make its mark.

I needed a program to share databases with my wife. We were researching the property market, and we were also planning a holiday. We needed to share information efficiently, seamlessly. No more scraps of paper.

I showed my wife my favourite "information dump" - Ultra Recall ( A power user's program. Robust, scalable and can share databases on a network.

She took one look at the GUI and said no. She hated it. Folders, menus, panes. Old-fashioned. Complicated. Boring. Took her less than ten seconds to dismiss it.

I only had one other program that I thought might fit the bill. Another program I'm fond of. Microsoft OneNote. My wife took one look. I explained the interface (took about 30 seconds). She loved it. Within 30 minutes she was creating a shared notebook on our home server. And she didn't even know we had a server. We've been using OneNote ever since. And my opinion of it only gets better.

Microsoft-bashing has been an international sport for many years. And quite often, they deserve it. Outlook 2007, for example, is driving me nuts. Appallingly slow compared to the 2003 version.

But in OneNote, Microsoft show just what they can do when they listen to customers. It is a triumph, and one of the company's finest products.


Who is this app designed for:

People who need to collect and/or share information. If that's you, OneNote should be on your shortlist.

The Good

There is plenty of competition in this area. But the ease with which notebooks can be shared, the ease with which information can be collected, and the overall elegance of the product set OneNote apart.

The interface: Most people with an ounce of computer savvy will understand the OneNote GUI very quickly (see main screenshot). Notebooks down the left, sections of the selected notebook across the top, pages from the selected section down the right. Pages can also have sub-pages, if you feel the need. Neat, simple, and it works.

Shared notebooks: Use the shared notebooks wizard. Tell OneNote where to store the notebook (on a server, or your own PC). Done. Automatic synchronization. And always available, even when you're away from your network.

How does that work? OneNote always makes two copies of a notebook. In the case of a shared notebook, let's say the main one is on a server. OneNote will keep a second cached copy on your machine. When you log off the network, you continue to work on the cached copy (in fact, you're always working on the cached copy). When you get back on the network, OneNote syncs with the server copy. All seamless. Wonderful. The green sync button (see screenshot) tells you that all shared notebooks are synced with the cached copy. You can also see the green sync symbol on the shared notebooks on the left-hand side.

Adding content is easy. Firstly, OneNote adds a printer driver to your machine. So any program that prints can send information to OneNote. Want to do a screenshot straight into OneNote? Use the global hotkey (Windows+S), drag the mouse over the target, let go. That's it.

Then there's the "Side Note", available from the taskbar:


Just double click on this (or use a global hotkey) and a little window pops up. Paste anything you like into this, and a OneNote page is automatically created.

Or of course you can just type straight into OneNote pages. Pages are freeform. Click anywhere and start typing. Or drawing. Or writing. Or creating tables.

Every new note imported into OneNote from another program gets placed in the "Unfiled Notes" section (see main screenshot). From there you can just drag and drop pages into their relevant notebooks/sections.

Searching: Like Outlook 2007, OneNote uses Windows Desktop Search for indexing. But it also uses an OCR engine so that it indexes text in images as well. I was very sceptical about this, but I haven't managed to fool it yet. This means I'm using screenshots a lot, because it takes literally five seconds, it doesn't interfere with my work, and it's all searchable.

Plugins (or Powertoys in MS-speak): Loads of them. In some cases, they add what should be basic features in the main program (e.g. sorting pages). In others they add useful features such as one-click import from IE/Outlook to OneNote:


For more on plugins see links below.

I haven't even touched on the fancy stuff. (handwriting, audio notes). That's because I haven't used them, and I don't think many non-tablet users are likely to. I use it purely as a text and image information dump. You can tag notes, and tags are customisable. You can create a synced Outlook task from a note. You can send a note as an email, or publish it to PDF. There is power under the bonnet.

The needs improvement section

There are one or two silly annoyances. Sub-pages don't link (group) with pages (i.e. if you move the page, the sub-pages don't automatically move with it. What's going on there?).

Some basic features (such as sorting pages alphabetically) are missing from the main program. But as stated above, Powertoys are filling the gaps.

Why I think you should use this product

Most people who use a computer need an information dump. Because most of us waste far too much time searching for information we have already found in the past. Stick your data in OneNote (or Ultra Recall, or a similar program) and use the power of indexed search. Desktop search programs have made people lazy. Organise your data. Back it up regularly. Make it easy to share your data.

If OneNote came as part of your Office suite and you haven't tried it yet, then have a go. If not, you can download a trial version.

How does it compare to similar apps

I spent far too many weeks and months analysing programs in this category before settling on Ultra Recall as the best power-user's data dump (although I also like Surfulater (, an excellent program that is still developing). But now that circumstance has forced me to use OneNote in anger, I really appreciate its elegance and simplicity. It's too early to say for certain, but I think OneNote may become my default data dump. It's that good.


OneNote 2007 is a fine achievement, and MS can be proud of it. The reason it stands out is because many programs in this category assume (correctly) that most people looking for a program like this are power users. So they cater only for power users. But MS are offering a powerful option that anyone can learn to use in half an hour. And for that reason alone it deserves success. Unlike Outlook 2007.

Links to other reviews and info about this application

A good blog by MS OneNote product manager:

A good review:

Powertoys: http://www.onenotepo...t-of-powertoy-links/

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