Teambox (various pricing; free for small projects) is a useful, online project management tool well-suited for small to medium-sized companies that want to handle projects without going through a significant learning curve. It's simple enough that you'll be able to get up to speed on it quickly, yet still offers solid tools for people to collaborate on projects.
The Teambox site includes the tools you would expect in a straightforward project manager, including those for creating tasks, communicating with one another, tracking people's time, sharing documents, and more. Especially useful is the "People & Permissions" area, in which you invite people to participate in the project, and assign roles for them. So some people, for example, can be given read-only access, other people can participate, but not invite others, and still other people can be given full administrative controls, including inviting people and deleting comments.
Teambox can be used for multiple projects, and if you use the for-pay version, you'll be able to search across all projects as well. The free version allows you to manage three projects and have up to 50MB of storage for files. There are various for-pay plans, ranging from six projects and 200 MB of storage for $12 a month, all the way up to 100 projects and 50 GB of storage for $99 a month.
Contrary to the implications of its moniker, there's really no wizardry involved with PC Wizard. Unless of course you consider a comprehensive querying and report on your system's hardware magic. This free utility from CPUID relays a lot, and I mean a lot of info. Much of said info may be found in Windows Device Manager, but a lot of it can't.
In addition to the usual processor info, PC Wizard reports on the motherboard chipset, exact CPU model (mostly) and cache sizes, voltages, etc. hard drive spindle speed (5400, 7200, etc.), facts that Microsoft doesn't consider useful to the average user. Microsoft is correct; however, the more granular info is very handy to more technical types, repair people, and--dare I say it?--reviewers.
Installing PC Wizard is easy. However, it does want to install the Ask toolbar so don't blindly click through if you don't want that particular piece of software. PC Wizard takes from 5 to 15 seconds to gather basic information about your system when it first runs, and 5 to 10 seconds to gather UPnP info when you select that icon. Network device info requires scanning IP addresses so that of course will take a little while as well. PC Wizard also offers a stability test and benchmarking of various components.
Ever since the dawn of Windows, a big part of the appeal was… well, windows. Being able to give each application its own area on the screen and run multiple applications at the same time completely transformed computing. But that’s old news; today, many of us have 24” monitors (sometimes more than one), and the challenge is how to use all of that screen space effectively. With the free WinSplit Revolution, you can make sure every inch of your monitor or monitors is displaying valuable information.
If you use a desktop computer or a large notebook, you probably have a keypad. WinSplit Revolution lets you use the pad (or any other hotkey you choose, if your keyboard lacks a number pad) for positioning windows in a very intuitive way. Want to snap a window to the top-right corner of the screen? Just hit Alt+Ctrl+9, and there goes the window. You can grab another window and snap it next to the first one using Alt+Ctrl+7 (for top-left corner). The same goes for every other number pad button; they all correspond to intuitive monitor positions.
While being able to quickly snap a window to every screen corner, you don’t necessarily want each such window to take up 50% of your monitor width. Tap 9 again, and the window you just snapped to the top-right corner becomes narrower, taking up 33% of the screen. Tap 9 once more, and the window grows wider, taking up 66% of the screen. So with a few quick keyboard taps, you can have a beautifully tiled desktop, with three narrow windows stacked on top of each other on the right (for reference material, for example), and one wide window taking up two-thirds of the screen width and its full height, for your main work area. All without reaching for your mouse.
One of the best things about digital SLR cameras and higher-end point-and-shoot cameras is the ability to shoot in RAW mode. RAW images give you uncompressed, data-heavy versions of your digital photos that can be used for intensive edits and adjustments without negatively impacting the image quality.
Problem is, "RAW" isn't a file format, and these uncompressed images vary in file type depending on the camera you're shooting with. Normally, you'd have to hunt down the appropriate RAW codec from your camera maker in order to view and edit these photos on your system. This free Microsoft Camera Codec Pack enables viewing of several camera makers' RAW file types in Window Live Photo Gallery and Windows Explorer on both Windows 7 and Vista (SP2 and Windows Platform Update are required) and Windows 7 PCs. It also creates .JPG copies of your source RAW images so that you can edit them in Windows Photo Gallery while still retaining the untouched RAW photo.
However, not all of the most-recent cameras' RAW format images are supported by the software, so it's best to check the list of supported models on the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack download page. Notably, many RAW-shooting DSLRs, interchangeable-lens compacts, and advanced point-and-shoot cameras released in the past year or two may have RAW format images that aren't supported by the codec pack--at least not yet. If you have an older RAW-shooting camera or a new camera that saves files in a long-supported RAW file type, you should be in good shape with this free codec pack. It's a handy "one-stop-download" that supports RAW formats that include Canon's .CR2 files, Nikon's .NEF files, Sony's .ARW files, Olympus's .ORF files, Pentax's .PEF files, and others.
As someone who gets itchy (green) thumbs around mid-winter, PlanGarden sounds like my dream software. Starting with a plot size as large as five acres, you can use PlanGarden ($20, limited demo) to draw your envisioned garden beds, lay out all of your imagined plants including plant spacings, set frost dates and indoor starting dates, and start a daily PlanGarden log. When you're ready to plant, use PlanGarden to track varieties, amount planted (by plant, row, or area), date planted, and estimated days to harvest. PlanGarden has a harvest log too, so you can track how much you gather from each plant. Unfortunately, overly basic features and a clumsy interface make PlanGarden somewhat less than dreamy.
Use PlanGarden's daily log entries to track actions in the broad categories of Bug, Compost, Fertilize, Greenhouse, Herbicide, Miscellaneous, Pesticide, Soil work, Weather, and Weed, and apply these to your garden overall or the individual plants or plant areas you've included on your PlanGarden plan. You can't add images to your log, but fortunately you can add a written description and can pre- and post date items.
PlanGarden does have annoyances: you can't track production from individual plants in a row, or draw a garden bed that curves inwards; and there's no easy way of diagramming shadows. You can add photographs in PlanGarden's Plot Layout tab, but you can't easily link them to your plants in the Manage Veg tab.
Web-based videos are great...when you have an Internet connection. If you're offline, however, online videos aren't much use. Unless you've already put Real Networks' RealDownloader to use, that is. This free utility lets you download a variety of Web-based videos with a simple click, so you can save them for viewing later.
RealDownloader works with Google Chrome (4.0+), Mozilla Firefox (3.0+), and Internet Explorer (6.05+), and once installed, appears as a small link above Web-based videos. It says "Download this video," and when you click on it, it does exactly that: downloads the video and saves it in a RealDownloader folder for offline viewing. It's a more streamlined approach than that of rival Freemake Video Downloader, an app that requires you to copy URLs and then paste them in the app for downloading.
RealDownloader will download videos that are in Flash or Quicktime formats, which the company says is the majority of online videos today. It will not download content from sites like Hulu, which offer premium or protected content. In my tests, I noticed that the "Download this video" link still appeared on Hulu, as well as several network sites offering full episodes of TV shows, but the downloads did not work correctly: instead of downloading the actual episode, it only downloaded the brief intro that appeared before most of the shows, which tells you that the program is being offered with limited commercial interruption. Freemake Video Downloader was able to download content from Hulu in past versions (as noted in our review of version 2.01, but in my tests of the current version, 2.1.7, content from Hulu would not download at all. It was, however, able to download content from ComedyCentral.com, which RealDownloader didn't capture.
Almost everyone has a mobile phone with a camera that can record both still images and video nowadays. The only problem is that mobile video codecs don't exactly produce video of the highest quality. In fact, phone video is typically blocky, out of focus, shaky, and, well, pretty much useless for anything other than showing grandma your latest kid-spitting-up-strained-peas masterpiece. So I had really high hopes for this nifty-sounding tool from Stoik Imaging, makers of the very well-received Imagic and Panorama Maker image editing and management applications. Their work on techniques that improve the quality of marginal still images is really out on the cutting edge. Could their free demo do the same for mobile video? Unfortunately, in this first version of Stoik Video Enhancer ($49, free demo with watermarks), the answer is a resounding no.
I certainly wasn't expecting the kind of fantasy, CSI Miami-esque super resolution enhancement that's only possible in the world of television and movies, but almost anything would be an improvement. The software supports a wide range of mobile video codecs, which is good because most desktop PC media players or organizers offer spotty coverage to replay video from phones. That's about where the good news ends.
Stoik Video Enhancer requires the latest version of Windows Media Player and DirectX, so factor in the storage and time-to-download and -install these products into your consideration. If you're already up to date, great. If not, it could add another 15 minutes, a reboot, and about 75MB of hard drive space to the installation requirements.