How many times have you sent an email to someone, but forgotten to also send an all-important attachment? If you're like most people, you've most likely done it a fair number of times. CatchAttach (€2) aims to make sure you never do it again--in Outlook, at least--but only partially succeeds at the task.
CatchAttach integrates directly into Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010, so that you don't need to run it as a separate program. It looks for keywords in any email you send that indicate you plan to include an attachment. By default, the only text it scans for is the word "attach," although it will also look for "attachment," "attached," and so on, because those words contain the text "attach." If it finds a match for the text, and sees that there's no attachment, it warns you that there's no attachment. You can then send the mail as is, or attach a file.
It's extremely easy to add your own key words or phrases. You can also change the text that CatchAttach displays when it finds out that there's no attachment.
Why is that puny game crashing your power rig? Which component is getting pushed over the edge? Is it your watt-thirsty video card? The overclocked CPU? The interleaved banks of exotic RAM? Finding out the limits as you fine-tune a system can be harder than you might expect. HWMonitor (free) can help.
Newer motherboards provide helpful feedback when things go wrong, but gaining access to the diagnostics often requires a reboot into BIOS or some other disk trickery. Stability problems that arise in demanding, high-load situations aren't likely to reveal themselves during idle diagnostic states. This is where HWMonitor steps in, providing real time, dynamic feedback on the temperature, voltage and operational status of system's main board and subsystems, such as video cards, fans and batteries.
You can run HWMonitor side by side with a stress-test benchmark (such as Cinebench) or suspect game, watching the temperatures rise until a crash predictably repeats. Is the video card showing a spike before the blue screen? Does your CPU get hot enough to make s'mores? Chances are you just found your problem. HWMonitor also maps out power usage in detail, allowing an easy means to determine whether a particular component is overwhelming the system; for example, a new video card that draws more current at peak load than an old power supply can reliably provide, triggering intermittent reboots.
Remembering all of your passwords may not seem difficult...until you think about just how many passwords you have. One for each email account. One for each bank account. One for each shopping site. The list goes on, and on. If you want to make your life simple, you can choose the same password for every account. But if you want to keep things secure while making life simple, you need a password manager like LastPass. This free software comes in a 32-bit and a 64-bit version.
LastPass is one of those handy utilities that doesn't bother you; in fact, you may barely notice it at all until you need it. Once you install LastPass, you must create an account, which requires selecting a master password for accessing LastPass. And then you're up and running. LastPass is visible only as a gray icon in your browser bar, which changes to an easily-visible red if you're logged in to the app. (You can opt to stay logged in when you close your browser if you're using a secure PC.)
As you browse the Web, LastPass springs into action when you enter a username and password into any kind of Web form. A drop-down menu bar asks if you'd like LastPass to save the login info, which you can assign to a group. When you return to that site, LastPass automatically enters the login info for you. LastPass is a cloud-based password manager, as it syncs your encrypted data with its servers, but also saves an encrypted backup copy on your local machine.
Files can be messy, and music files, doubly so. When ripping CDs into MP3 files, not everyone takes care to rename the files accurately--and even if they do, different people may have different naming and filing schemes. When that happens, MusicBrainz Picard (free) can help.
Fourteen years ago, I ripped several Faith No More CDs to MP3. At the time, I used a naming scheme that made lots of sense to me--I called the files "01.mp3," "02.mp3," and so on. I felt quite clever at the time, because by adding a leading zero I could get Windows Explorer to sort the files correctly.
Today, that naming scheme doesn't really work for me. I carefully file my music collection according to artist and album, with each filename containing the complete track name preceded by its number ("05 Tremendous Dynamite.mp3"). Converting my ripped MP3s to this scheme manually would take a long time, and could be a frustrating experience.
Giddy-up partner, Visual Search Pony is riding to the rescue. Rescuing your hard drive space that is. This handy free utility identifies duplicate video files so you can free up space by helping them git along to the Recycle Bin. Better yet, it identifies them even if the if the format, name, or resolution are different--the program uses other criteria--so it finds copies that other duplicate finders miss.
Visual Search Pony's interface is simplicity itself: a preview pane, search pane for adding locations to search, and a pane that lists the results of your search. I keep a folder of video files which contains the same videos in a number of different formats for testing the players I review. Dag gum it if VSP didn't up and find all my diversely-named AVI, WMV, DivX and MP4 files and list them as duplicates.
Unfortunately, VSP doesn't understand OGG Theora or Quicktime though it also handles SWF, MKV, and FLV with the proper DirectShow codecs installed. There could be a bit more information on the VisualSearchPony.com Web site about where to find the codecs, but that's not the program's real job. Only five years ago duplicate videos wouldn't have been a problem. Today, with uploading and downloading video from cameras, recorders, flash drives and the Internet as common as brushing your teeth, it most certainly can be. Visual Search Pony is great tool for culling the herd. I wish it supported Ogg Theora and Quicktime, etc. but it's handy enough as is.
When using an application or browsing a website, few people ever pause to consider the colors used. If they do notice, it's usually because the designer got something wrong--either a jarring combination, or a lack of contrast that makes text difficult to make out. But for the designer, picking the right colors to use is not an easy task, especially if the brand already has a base color which they must use. ColorSchemer Studio ($50, 15-day free trial) offers multiple tools that aim to make it simpler to come up with attractive, usable schemes.
At first, ColorSchemer Studio may feel a bit overwhelming. There's no Wizard you step through to get to your perfect scheme. You start by selecting a Base Color that would serve as the anchor point for your scheme. You can select it out of a library of named colors, feed it in directly as an RGB or HSL value, or use an eyedropper to pick it from anywhere on your screen.
Once you have a Base Color you can easily tweak it with RGB and HSL sliders, or using handy buttons that let you quickly change saturation and brightness. Fortunately, you don't have to go through this entire song and dance for every color on your palette (although you can, if you really want to). Extrapolating a palette out of that single color is what ColorSchemer studio does best.
Performing regular maintenance on your computer has always been a good idea. Making sure its internal components are kept clean and cool is important to a system's longevity. Just as important is keeping your hard drive optimized, and that's a chore best left to a good piece of software. Much as PC Autotune ($25, buy-only) tries to be that software, it comes up short.
For starters, PC Autotune's interface tries too hard to look like something it's not: a vehicle dashboard. While the gauges might be recognizable in a car or truck, they really don't make any sense for a piece of software that helps maintain your hard drive. Take the gauge marked disk/defrag: it's marked 0 to 20%. Of what? I've been a technician for more than a decade, and I'm not sure.
The problems with the interface are compounded by the fact that during PC Autotune's maintenance routine the needles bounce back and forth rhythmically...but again, I'm not sure what they're supposed to indicate.