ConnectedText is an excellent personal wiki program, one which runs solely on the desktop. While this removes one of the features which many associate with wikis, namely, collaborative editing, it also makes ConnectedText much easier to set up and use for a single user. ConnectedText 5 continues to build on the strengths of prior releases without introducing useless bells and whistles or radically changing the interface or functionality.
Working in ConnectedText is straightforward. Create a project, and begin creating topics. Any word, term, or phrase you think might merit its own topic is marked with brackets, and you can then create that topic by clicking on the word (or create a topic directly from a menu--links aren't required). In a very short span of time, you will have many topics, all linked to each other.
ConnectedText uses two modes, the editing mode and the view mode. In the editing mode, you type in plain text and mark-up words or sections using simple tags to denote headers, bold or italic, numbered lists, and so on. Flipping to view mode shows you a rendering of your text, automatically saving your changes (and like any wiki, you can revert to an earlier edit with ease). The actual formatting is handled by cascading style sheets, so if you know CSS, you can edit them to change the default fonts, colors, and so on. You can also enter CSS tags while you edit, to change the appearance of a section of text individually.
CloudMagic's lightning-fast search tool has impressed me since I reviewed a previous version over a year ago. I like its speed, I like its layout, and I like the feature added to its latest version: Twitter search.
This browser extension for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox still searches your Gmail, Google Apps Email, Google Docs, Google Calendars, Google Contacts accounts, too. Once installed, it appears as a small search bar on the upper right side of your Gmail, Google, Google Docs, or Twitter window. You manually add any accounts that you'd like CloudMagic to index by supplying your name and password. As with previous versions, this iteration of CloudMagic stores this information locally, on your PC.
CloudMagic then begins indexing your accounts, which can take some time if your accounts are sizable. It took several hours to index a Gmail account containing 7 years of messages, but only a few minutes to index a newer Twitter account. You can begin searching right away, but waiting until the indexing process is complete will deliver more accurate results.
Driver Reviver's name may be something of a tongue-twister, but using this $30 application is far easier than pronouncing it. This excellent utility offers a simple way to identify and update out-of-date drivers.
Like its rival Perfect Updater, Driver Reviver ($30, free demo) begins to scan your PC for out-of-date drivers as soon as you launch the app. I prefer the approach taken by another rival, DeviceDoctor.com's Device Doctor, which waits to begin scanning until you've manually started the process. But you can pause the scan, and in all other areas, both Raxco Software's PerfectUpdater and ReviverSoft's Driver Reviver drastically outperform Device Doctor.
In fact, Driver Reviver is very similar to PerfectUpdater. Both are $30 apps that quickly scan your PC, and display the results in easy-to-view lists that make it easy to gauge the age of your drivers. And like PerfectUpdater, Driver Reviver offers a free scan of your PC: Once you want to go ahead an update your drivers, you have to spring for the full version of the apps.
These days, I’m busy creating a new online store, a process that involves quite a bit of user interface design. To make matters more complicated, my colleagues are spread all over the globe, so we can’t just walk up to the office whiteboard and quickly flesh out ideas. It used to be that to show them a new UI layout, I had to draw it from scratch using CorelDRAW--and even MS Paint, just that one time. WireframeSketcher ($75, seven-day free trial with watermarks) changes that, and lets me present slicker UI designs much faster.
A wireframe is a non-working mockup of an interface, much like a sketch on a napkin. While there are online tools for creating wireframes (such as Mockup Builder), some situations call for a downloadable application that can be used offline.WireframeSketcher starts you off with a blank canvas, on which you can drag and drop any number of widgets. Some of these widgets can be as simple as a button or a label, while others can be as complex as “cover flow” (à la iTunes) or a video player. You can also customize them: For example, the table widget lets you control the number of columns, their width and their contents, and you can even add icons into cells (not just text).
There is no dedicated user interface for customizing a table’s contents; instead, you are presented with a text area into which you must type the desired layout and contents, using specialized syntax. WireframeSketcher's syntax isn’t very complex, but doesn’t adhere to any widespread standard (it’s a form of CSV, basically). It is mentioned in the online manual, but the documentation mainly consists of a few quick examples. I was eventually able to get the table to show the information I wanted in the correct format, but it did require a bit of fiddling.
The Elder Scrolls, Chapter II: Daggerfall from Bethesda Softworks is the critically-acclaimed sequel to The Elder Scrolls: Arena, the very first game in the famous Elder Scrolls series of PC roleplaying games. Daggerfall expands and surpasses on every aspect of Arena’s gameplay, delivering you into a sprawling fantasy world teeming with villages, tombs and castles to explore. Playing Daggerfall on a modern PC can be jarring--the game was released in 1996 for MS-DOS--but once you get used to playing a game with outdated graphics and cumbersome controls, you’ll discover a well-written role-playing game that sucks you in for hours with a surprisingly exotic and engaging adventure. Of course since Daggerfall was released in 1996 you need a DOS emulator like DOSBox in order to get it running on a modern PC. For more information, check out our handy guide to playing Daggerfall on your Windows 7 PC.
You start the game by creating a character from one of 18 classes and 8 different races, allocating points to a variety of different skills like archery, pickpocketing or thaumaturgy. Daggerfall has one of the deepest character creation systems I’ve ever seen in a PC game, more akin to a proper pen-and-paper role-playing game than a modern RPG like Fable: The Lost Chapters. If you’re in a hurry you can breeze through character creation by answering a series of hypothetical questions and allowing the game to create a character based on your choices, much like the morality quizzes that distinguished character creation in the Ultima series of games.
Once you create a character, you’ll find yourself in a dank dungeon with a few pieces of shoddy equipment and a simple quest: Find out why the deceased King Lysandus is haunting his former kingdom, and lay the spectre to rest. And while you can spend hours unraveling the dark plot that surrounds the good king’s death to solve the mystery and save the kingdom (in one of six different endings), the real appeal of an open-world RPG like Daggerfall is having the freedom to blow off the main quest entirely and forge your own story in a world brimming with friends, foes, and fiends that dynamically respond to your actions. You move and explore the 3D world in real-time and engage enemies by using the mouse to swing a weapon or cast a spell, a complicated control scheme that takes some time to get used to.
Knights of the Chalice ($24, free demo) is a cheerfully old-school game in which blocky, two-dimensional characters wander a blocky, two-dimensional world in order to gut and eviscerate everything that moves and haul off as treasure everything that isn't nailed down. In some contexts, this would be the work of sociopathic brigands; in the world of role playing games, it's called "adventuring."
Instead of a limited subset of the main game, you get a small, standalone adventure, with pre-generated characters. If you like the gameplay and purchase the full Knights Of The Chalice game, you get a much larger game (going to level 20 instead of 3) and you can create your own band of intrepid heroes. This unusual demo model gives enough of a taste of the gameplay, tactics, and interface that you'll quickly know if you'll enjoy the full game.
Knights Of The Chalice uses a highly modified and simplified form of the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rules, thanks to the Open Game License. There are only 3 classes (Fighter, Wizard, Cleric), no skills, and only a handful of feats. What is carried over is the importance of tactical positioning. Flanking an enemy is important, moving past a foe will let him get a whack at you, and casting a spell next to an enemy--or in the sight of an enemy with a bow--is dangerous. (Eberron Online is a more robust implementation of the D&D rules set, but it is oriented towards the real-time play of an MMORPG, as well as having the traditional D&D levels broken up to allow more frequent rewards and advances.)
Canadian font designer Peter Rempel brings his love of handwritten letterforms to the screen with a free download of PR Uncial, a playful introduction to the art of calligraphic forms.
Time was when letterforms came about from hand and nib not click and pixel. Beginning around 200 AD, a particular style known as Uncial was the go-to choice of scribes writing out Latin and Greek texts. Uncial relies on simple, rounded strokes from a pen held in one position.
Hardworking copyists kept this simple style fashionable for centuries. In fact, as Rempel shows in this font design, Uncial never gone out of fashion. An early start drawing Uncial letterforms has inspired many of the designer’s works, including PR Viking, another PCWorld favorite.