Useful Utils #2 – ZTreeWin

This is a bit of an old school one. I’ve been using ZTreeWin and its predecessor XTreeGold for well over 10 years. It looks like a DOS program you say? Well thats the idea. ZTreeWin is the Windows version of the late great XTreeGold. Essentially its file and directory manager that is incredibly fast to use (once you know the shortcut keys). It has the ability to work with small subsets of files very easily by tagging them.

ZTreeWin v1.50 - main view small

The problem with XTreeGold was that when we all shifted to Windows it was stuck in the days of 8.3 file names and short directory name. Plus the fact it was a DOS program limited to using 640k of memory! To give it its due, it still worked, but it was a bit handicapped.

Norton / Symantec, by some odd route, bought them out and tried to make a native Windows version but given that the ALT key is meant to activate menu’s and various assigned controls in Windows, it completely destroyed half of XTree’s short cuts making it piss useless. Plus it looked hideous and was a tad sloooow.

ZTreeWin v1.50 - split view small

So when I heard of ZTreeWin I was well chuffed. Like most things in life its not free, but at $29.95 its hardly expensive. It is also worth noting it is still actively developed by Kim Henkel. Its been done as old style console app that looks and works exactly (and I mean *exactly*) like XTreeGold but without the limitations.

One of my favourite things it can do is mirror folders from one location to another and accurately tell you how long it will take (yes, Explorer does this, but you give it a lot to do and you end up with a progress bar like this!). It is also very fast at searching files, you can get it log a directory, filter it down (by extension, or any sort of file filter), tag the files you want and then search them.

Of course it isn’t perfect. The lack of drag and drop is a pain and its inability to work with native UNC paths doesn’t help. It does provide a workaround in that you can open the “Map Network Drive” wizard, but there are times when you just want to quickly enter a path and get on with it. It doesn’t need to have a drive letter!

That said, along with SlickRun, I use it everyday and probably will for the foreseeable future.

There is a very comprehensive XTree fan site that spookily looks like the program. It contains a wealth of information about XTree’s history.

The original author of XTree, Jeffrey C Johnson, has a website as well. One of the domain names of which, www.xtree.com, was given to him by the author of ZTreeWin. A nice gesture I thought.

TopDesk – Windows Vista style Window Flipping!

Now this is cool, TopDesk replaces the standard Windows “ALT + TAB” with the Windows Vista style method. It certainly looks cool and seems useful, but I’ll have to work with it for a while to decide.

TopDeskFlip1 TopDeskFlip2 TopDeskFlip3

I can’t say I’m a fan however of the OS X Expose style options. After trying them out I think they’re unusable, especially on a dual monitor setup, since it jumps about all over the screen(s) to focus on different windows. I find it hard work to follow and distracting. With the Vista style method its consistent with the selection always in the one place.

Originally found it via Scott Hanselman’s site. (Images are from TopDesk site)

Useful Utils #1 – SlickRun

I thought I’d waffle on about what apps and utils that I find useful. It’ll be in no particular order, just what springs to mind. So for my first useful util I’ve chosen is something I use everyday, almost all the time.

Its SlickRun from Bayden Systems. Essentially its a floating command line that allows you to set up aliases (magic words as it calls them) to various actions. For me its meant I can get rid of all my short cuts and icon clutter. All I need to do now is press “Windows Key + Q” to open the prompt and then start typing the magic word I’m after, as you can see below:

SlickRun

It might not be the most sexy looking of programs but it sure is functional. The amount of time this program has saved me is immeasurable. Instead of playing hunt the icon on a toolbar I can quickly run pretty much anything in seconds.

It doesn’t just run programs though, you can also type in paths and file names and it’ll open them. It also has a little maths parser built in. If you type “=” first and then your calculation, as you would in Calc, then hit enter, you’ll get a result. Obviously for something like this it has auto-complete for that little speed bump in usage. Oh and its free too!

I found it purely by accident from a 10 utilities in 10 minutes video that Scott Hanselman did last year. Expect more utils from that video!

Amusingly, someone I converted to SlickRun says he’s sure programs load faster with it! I wonder if there’s any truth in that?

Yep, you guessed it, SlickRun is a Delphi app :D.

Site Tweaking

I’ve yet to find a WordPress theme that I really like, but out of those I’ve looked at Regulus by Binary Moon is my current choice. B0rked-CategoriesEven with this theme I’m not totally happy, so I’ve been making minor changes to it. I wanted the categories section in the sidebar to show the count of items in each category. I was told the default theme did that, so I loaded it up, worked out it was wp_list_cats() with various parameters and tweaked the Regulus layout to match. Unfortunately I broke it slightly… as you can see from the picture on the right.

I was a bit stumped as to what the problem was. There was nothing obvious in the HTML source, so I figured it must be the CSS. Oh joy, this could take a while! I was looking at messing about with it in TopStyle.

However, Vondur pointed me to this excellent Firefox plugin, the Web Developer Extension. I know every man and his dog who has the vaguest interest in web development has it already but I don’t see the point of adding another Firefox extension unless I really need it (Firefox uses enough memory as it is!).

And boy was it useful, I was able to edit the CSS and the changes appeared instantly, which made finding the problem easy. The culprit was “display:block;” in “#sidebar a”. Turning that off fixed it, but the links were too close together. So I tweaked “#sidebar li” with padding-top / padding-bottom values and that fixed it.

Having the right tools for the job makes it so much easier!

Trying out Blogjet

I’m current trying out Blogjet as way of updating my site. I found a link to it on HanselMinutes last weekend. I’m not much of a podcast person. Listening to something requires more concentration than just scanning a few RSS feeds. But I like Scott’s approach of as little bull as possible. How this guy finds time to look at all this stuff I don’t know.

As much as I like WordPress’s WYSIWYG editor, it is a bit of a pain to work with. One of the first things I tried doing was adding a link. So I marked the text I wanted to link, clicked the link icon and…

tinyMCE object reference not found from popup.

Ah yes, thats a useful error message! I’m sure if I Googled for it, an obvious answer would be forthcoming, but its the general clunkiness of it that puts me off. When I click “Save and Continue‿ it reloads the page, the WYSIWYG editor disappears, I see the raw HTML and then it comes back and I can carry on. Its great to have the ability to do all this in a web browser, but we’re not there just yet. Its just not responsive enough.

Blogjet however suffers no such problems. Simple and to the point. Pretty much all the options have shortcut keys so after a bit of use firing off a post should be quick. It has spell checking, which is always useful. It would be nice if it ran like Word / Outlook etc with checking as I type… but you can’t have everything!

The look and feel of it reminds me of CityDesk. We use it at work to update and manage the majority of our site content. Yep, I do like apps that just do their job, without any fuss.

Btw Gom, update your site!