Monday, July 31, 2006

Linux Made Easy

Linux: Some tweaks to make your life a bit easy.

Can you figure out which is the fastest internet application ever created? Yes, you guessed it right. It is a unique Linux distribution with built in Web Server right there in its Kernel! Linux may not be in a position to give real threat to Windows in desktop computing in near future, but it is all set to dominate the areas of Internet and special computing requirement.

One of biggest hurdles you may find in using Linux is its true customizability (its Kernel too is customizable to individual computers and devices), which hardcore Linux users find it as its positive trait. Every distribution has its own customized installation procedure and their installation files too were customized. If you find an application attractive enough to try a hand at it, only to find later that it is of different distribution and can not be installed in your system. If you find appropriate distribution of this application by vigorously searching from Internet, still there is no guarantee that it will install smoothly. In all probability, when you start its installation script; only to find later that it has various file dependencies and version compatibility issues which are not complied in your Linux installation; hence the application will not install in your computer. Though you love variety in your eating and clothing etc, but you can find performance degradation when you encounter variety in your learning process. And there are varieties of Linux distributions! Further, popular Linux distribution, though they are easy in installation, by default, they install more than one window managers, which are radically different from each other in every aspect. Even an application may behave differently in different Window manager. Users often get confused in selecting their window managers. Again, since Linux primarily focus on Internet / Server Computing, its tight security issues and numerous configuration settings repel average desktop users. Simple tasks such as to change your display settings, you have to run geeky applications like Xconfigurator!

Well, despite its steep learning curve, Linux is really a cool Operating System that has attractions for many and if you take some care and with some tweaking, you can make your life easier with it. Here are some tips that you can try out. However, kindly note that every Linux distribution and its Window managers may not give you results as indicated; again, because Linux and its application are built that way.

· When Linux Crashes…..

Newer version of Linux crashes extremely rarely. However, an application may crash and your desktop computer running Linux (typically Xwindows applications) may stop responding to your command, and you think that it has crashed. It happens normally due to crashed Xwindows applications. In this situation, try pressing Alt, Ctrl and Backspace keys simultaneously. Your Xwindows will terminate immediately and you can start all over again. If this trick does not work, then press Ctrl, Alt and any of Function Keys from F1 to F6. A new login window will appear and you can login as root or any other user and then can safely reboot from here. You can login up to seven instances in the same or different name this way from same terminal; however Xwindow will be available to only one instance.

· Where is Speaker Icon?

In some window managers, you may not find Volume or sound mixer’s icon in its desktop environment’s taskbar, such as on Gnome environment. To control volume and access mixer settings, you have to go through start menu. To make life easy here, create a link to your sound mixer’s settings on your desktop or on taskbar at an appropriate location. To make shortcut at Gnome taskbar, right click at an appropriate location on taskbar, and go to ‘Panel’ on context menu that appears. Click on ‘Add to panel’, and then click on ‘Launcher from menu’. Finally, select ‘Aumix’ (Gnome sound mixer) or ‘Sound mixer’ (KDE Sound mixer) from menu’s multimedia section. You may need to browse a bit to find out exact location of these in Menu. Your link has now permanently attached there until you remove it deliberately, but remember to check save settings dialogue when logging off, else your effort may get vanished next time you login.

· No CD / floppy Drive?

In some desktop environment, you may not find icon for floppy or CD Drive. Since these Icons make life easy, you can make shortcuts for those in your desktop. In Gnome Desktop environment, simply right click on desktop and select Floppy drive or CD Drive from the context menu that appears. An icon with caption Floppy or CD Rom Device will appear, which can be used to mount, un mount and access the device. Alternately, you can write a shell script to mount or un mount CD Rom device or Floppy drive and put a link of this on your desktop. Now simply double click these links to perform your desired task. The similar procedure can be performed for any number of tasks that are repeated. The size of most used icon can be increased to distinguish it from other. For that, right click on the selected icon and then select ‘Stretch icon’ from the context menu that appear. Now you can drag any corner of the icon to a suitable size.

To write shell script for mounting CD Rom Drive, start any text editor and type following lines exactly as they appear:

#!bin/sh

mount /mnt/cdrom

Save the file as mount cd and then through file manager, change its property to executable. Now, put a link to the file or put the file itself in your desk top. You can assign a nice icon for this link or file. Simply clicking on this icon and selecting ‘Run’ will mount your CD Rom Drive.

Similarly, for un mounting your CD Rom Drive, write following script and follow above steps to create desktop icon as un mount CD.

#!bin/sh

umount /mnt/cdrom

· Desktop Colours and Settings......

In Linux, you simply cannot change your desktop colours and settings on the fly as in Windows OS. You have to run X configurator or manually edit Xconfig file to do this. However recent Gnome and KDE environment lets you setup these parameters more easily. In KDE, open Control centre (Mandrake Installation), click on Display and then click on ‘Change Resolution’. Here you can change the resolutions as per your likings. Before applying these settings, be doubly sure that your Graphic card and Monitor supports those resolutions, else your XWindow may crash.

Now this is the time to take easy control of your Linux machine till next time when we sit back again to discuss some more tweaks...

Snapshot Descriptions:

1 Linux01.jpg: A small green flag indicates the CDROM Device mounted or not. Right click at this Icon to change its settings like permission etc.

2 Linux02.jpg Right click anywhere on your desktop to make link of your favorite application or device or a task and select ‘Link here’ from the context menu that appear.

3 Linux03.jpg: You can set your Window Manager’s behavior by KDE’s desktop settings wizard. You can set the look and behavior like GUIs of popular Operating System like Windows and MAC etc.

4 Linux04.jpg: Latest version of KDE offers visually appealing special effects to transform your desktop to look more glamorous and appealing.

5 Linux05.jpg: Through login manager, you can set your window manager, default user and other parameters for bit easiness.

6 Linux06.jpg: You can add further convenience to your Linux such as enable auto login, password less logins etc. if you are sole owner of your terminal.

7 Linux07.jpg: Settings like Login, Printing and Sessions etc can be changed and configured for better productivity and easiness in operation.

8 Linux08.jpg: Before logging out, make sure to save and restore settings and sessions, else your previous settings will be loaded.

9 Linux09.jpg: You have to manually create Volume control and Audio Mixer Icons on some Window manager like Gnome.

10 Linux10.jpg: Shell Script files one each for Mounting and un mounting CD ROM on desktop makes using this device more convenient.

11 Linux11.jpg: Now Xwindow’s Display settings can be changed from new tool such as Mandrake Control center’s Display menu.

How to convert file format ?

Changing religion of files …

Contents of a file stored in your computer are useful only if you have installed an application compatible to handle that file otherwise it is not better than garbage. Windows uses file extensions for recognizing file types. When you try to open a certain file, the registered file extension associated with a certain application opens that file if it finds the file format similar to that it can handle. But when it finds file format strange even if the file extension name is recognizable, then it produces error messages and you are unable to open that file. When you have a certain file and you do not know its type and desperately want to see the contents of the file, then what would you do? Take another situation- you know the type of file, but you do not have the required program installed in your computer and you have to use that file. What will be your strategy? There are some tools, application and web services that can help you in these situations.

Try to view the file content

If you are not certain about the file type, then you can try to view it by file viewers. In Windows, there is built in tool called Quick View which can be used for viewing content of some files. Right click on the file and select Quick view on the context menu that appears. Quick view can show common Documents and graphic files through its built in viewers. If Quick View is not installed in your Windows Computer, then you have to install it through Start >Settings> Control Panel >Add Remove Programs> Windows Setup > Accessories > Details and then selecting Quick View. If Quick View fails to deliver desired results, then more powerful, commercial utility- Quick View Plus can be used that can handle and view several hundred file formats. There are free file viewers you can use such as IrfanView or Xnview for graphic files and Word viewer and Excel viewer for word and excel documents.

Try to open with Notepad

Notepad can open virtually any file if it is not too large. However, if the file is not of text- document- type then you will only see jumbled text in Notepad’s window. If you find some useful recognizable text then that can be used by cut and paste method. Some large files may contain text strings that may be of some use for you. Such text can be extracted to a temporary folder and viewed through Notepad by a simple, small explorer add-on called Peek. This free utility is available at http://members.ping.at/mlubich/. Once installed, it adds right click menu on your Windows Explorer. Now point to your file, right click on it and select Peek. The common recognizable text portion of the file will be extracted as a temporary file- Peek.txt and viewed instantly with Notepad. The viewed contents can be used, saved and printed as usual. You can extract the text contents of virtually any file including executables, with Peek. Peek can extract the file’s text if it is in Binary, Unicode or Standard format.

Try to guess the associate application

Often, some file types not recognized by Windows because the native applications are not installed. But these files can be opened by similar application provided they support those file types. For example, Video CDs store data of audio-video sequence as *.dat files. The *.dat file extension are used by other applications as well. If you want to play the video file having *.dat extension in Windows Media player, then open the said file by pressing the Shift key and then Right clicking and selecting ‘Open With’ option. File types having text, database, spread sheet and common graphics formats can be opened by standard applications after guessing; since some file extensions are not associated and hence are not recognized by Windows. Use of latest version of application and using add-on can also extend your computer’s capability to handle file types. For example, Microsoft Word XP has built in file converter that can open fairly large number of document files including some spread sheet files. Further, it can recover text from any file [similar to Peek] that can be used later in any application. Format of opened files can be converted through application’s Save As dialogue box.

Use file format converters

If all efforts listed above fails, then you need some advance measures. There are large number of file converter tools, applications and web services available with which you can convert virtually any file in to any other file format. Even your text document file can be converted in to motion picture file. File converters are needed and are really helpful in converting specially developed Data Base and CAD files for porting them from one platform to other and for use in different environment. Design files that are created through expensive CAD/CAM software with great pain are needed to be converted without any format loss. Similarly, graphic files are needed to be converted for use in different applications. For example, the beautiful painting you created through Windows Paint program needs to be converted from BMP to GIF or PNG format if you want it to be used in your web site’s home page. Besides, if a whole lot of files including directories and sub-directories need to be converted then there is no option but to use file converters.

Here are some file converters reviewed for you. However, you may find some strange results and data corruption while using these file converters. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you must backup your files first and then perform these strange file format converters.

Konvertor

Konvertor is a program that claims to support more than 350 file formats. It is a Graphic, Audio, Text and Video file Viewer and converter. It has built in thumbnail viewer which is quite resource hungry. Konvertor has some special built in tool like image cataloguer, effects filter, color adjuster etc. Since this application handles too much file format and has too much built in tools; using it often become tricky. However, it has some nice, useful options such as you can convert your program’s source or make file in to PDF format for easy viewing of code. Common Video and Graphic files such as MPEG, Windows Media, AVI, BMP, GIF, JPG and more can be converted in to each other. The program is efficient in converting common picture files. While converting media files such as converting WAV file to MP3, it fails in delivering things. Still, the program is useful for common graphic file conversion and DOS / UNIX/ Macintosh text file conversion. The 30 day trial version of this application can be downloaded from http://www.logipole.com

Word Converter

Microsoft Word gives you only two- three option to save your documents in Text format. But with Word converter, you can convert your documents to various text file formats such as Encoded Text, Rich Text, Unicode Text, Text with Layout, HTML etc. Word Converter’s built in spread sheet converter can convert your Excel document to Text, Unicode Text, D-Base, Lotus etc. including Macintosh Text file format. It seamlessly works as command line tool in Windows environment. It displays error or successful completion message as the case may be; after file conversion procedure completes. Word Converter can convert files of whole directory including subdirectory in a one go. This application is also available in source form and you can add this in to your application if you are in application development.

AsctoRTF & AsctoHTM

These two little cute applications can create beautiful Rich Text / HTML document out of your ugly plain text document. Of course, you can convert your text document in to RTF / HTML with any hi-profile Word program such as MS Word, but you will not get automatic formatting. The AsctoRTF application has made to intelligently sense requirement of formatting including heading, sub heading, indentation and bullet, Web Link etc. and format it accordingly. The program is feature full and great time saver in converting plain text file in to Rich Formatted Text file. Similarly, AsctoHTM can convert your Plain Vanilla text file in to Butter Scotch HTML file without any much of user input. AsctoRTF is extremely useful in converting Legacy system report, log report and other lengthy report generated in plain text. AsctoRTF converts these highly unreadable junk data in to beautiful presentation, for better visibility and interpretation. Further, you can define the way AsctoRTF convert your Text file in to RTF file. You can download shareware version of this application from http://www.jafsoft.com.

Word Port

This commercial application can convert text and word document files in to numerous file formats such as MS Word, Word Perfect, Word Star, XYWrite, Lotus and others. The application is easy in use. You simply have to give the address of Source file and if you know the format then it is ok otherwise it will automatically try to guess the file format. Finally, give the output file format, name and directory and click on convert. Your document will be converted in no time, as specified. The trial version of this program can be downloaded from http://www.acii.com . But beware, the trial version of Word Port deliberately insert spelling mistakes in your converted document.

File Merlin

This is the same program as Word Port, but used to convert Excel and Database files instead of Text and Word Document files. It can convert wide variety of database file such as D-Base, Fox-Pro, MS Access, MS Excel, ODBC Data files including some text and Word document. The application is available for download at http://www.acii.com.

DaVince Tool

This tool can convert Text, Tiff or JPG files in to PDF format. It has simple interface. You simply have to select the file you want to convert and then click on Run button. Depending on the file size, it will take a while. The tool can be used from DOS environment as well. You can convert many files in to a single large pdf file. It has a maze creator through which you can create maze puzzle. This tool has limited use but if you want to create simple Portable Document Format file out of Text / Tiff / JPEG document, then download it from: http://www.davince.com . A similar Text to PDF file converter is Simple-PDF Composer which is available from: http://www.simplepdf.com. This application supports drag and drop and create a middle file *.sim that can be used later for adding extra pages to your pdf document. Simple PDF supports multi level page formatting for better presentation of your existing, plain text document.

Converting Graphic and media files

There are numerous applications capable to handle and convert various media and graphics file formats. Some popular applications are XnView, IrfanView and ACDSee. IrfanView is a freeware utility and is very simple yet powerful in converting media files. The graphics shown in this article has been converted from BMP to JPG through IrfanView, so that its size can be reduced and can be sent through internet without any loss of quality. You can download IrfanView from http://www.irfanview.com. ACDSee is commercial application, and is known for its ability to handle most media and graphic files of computing history.

Converting Data & Design Files

Data files need to be converted for use in various environments. There are numerous tools and applications available for data file conversion as well. Two such tools are ScopeD$P and ScopeFIR. These tools can convert complex data in wide variety of Data file formats. These applications can be downloaded from http://www.iowegian.com. Similarly, Design and Map files that are created through CAD/CAM software can be converted through tools like Landgrab98. You can download this application from http://www.gecko_sw.com.

Web Services

Still if you find difficulty in finding right application for your file conversion need, then you can always go to World Wide Web and get help of available services. Simply log on to the sites that provide file conversion services, pay their fees, upload your file, specify the format of file conversion and after a while, retrieve your converted file. It is as simple as that. Some file conversion service sites are: http://www.iconv.com, http://tom.cs.cmu.edu, and http://documents.cern.ch/convert.

Screenshot Descriptions:

  • Converta.jpg Peek – a small utility that adds right click context menu on Windows Explorer to extract text contents from any kinds of file.
  • Convertb.jpg Peek in action: The extracted text content from an executable Hangman program.
  • Convert01.jpg Davince Tools: This simple file converter converts Text and graphics file Tiff, JPEG in to PDF files.
  • Convert02.jpg Simple- PDF composer converts text and jpg files in to PDF files.
  • Convert03.jpg Word Port converts numerous word document files such as doc, sam, txt, wpd, wps, wpt, wri in to various formats.
  • Convert04.jpg Simply assign the output file format and click convert after selecting the file to be converted. Within no time you will get a completely new file ready to deliver things.
  • Convert05.jpg Word Port needs some simple input from you for formatting the file to be converted.
  • Convert06.jpg The text file converted in to HTML document. You may not find fancy formatting since the basic concept behind file conversion is making the content of file usable.
  • Convert07.jpg File Merlin: This application is similar to Word Port, but convert excel and database files in to other file formats.
  • Convert08.jpg Converted files lack complex formatting however, the document become usable.
  • Convert09.jpg Word Converter: the program that converts Word and Spreadsheet files to other file formats.
  • Convert10.jpg File converters can convert many files and combine them in to one large converted file.
  • Convert11.jpg File converters display messages after attempting the file conversion whether the conversion process was successful or not.
  • Convert12.jpg Konvertor : The file converter that supports more than 350 file formats.
  • Convert13.jpg Konvertor has built in thumbnail viewer which makes the application more useful yet resource hungry.
  • Convert14.jpg Help of file conversion services can be obtained from the WEB. Upload a file for conversion, specify the format, pay their service charges, and retrieve the converted files within minutes. These services are available to convert any type of files.
  • Convert15.jpg A simple text file converted to rtf file by MS Word program. It cannot add formatting to a text document while converting it in to rtf file.
  • Convert16.jpg AsctoRTF can automatically add complex formatting to text document for better look of document.
  • Convert17.jpg The file converter displays status window through which status of file conversion can be known for troubleshooting.
  • Convert18.jpg Newer versions of applications such as MS Word XP can open and save variety of related file formats and works as a sort of file converter application.
  • Convert19.jpg IrfanView: The freeware graphics and Media file converter. The graphics used in this article has been converted by this application.
  • Convert20.jpg The File converters that support Batch file conversion are real time and pain saver.

Exploring - new, better way!

Explore in style!

Practically, there are alternatives to everything. Often, when you explore the alternatives, they might give you surprising, yet rewarding results. The case still holds well with your Windows Explorer. If you explore the alternatives to your version of Windows Explorer, equally surprisingly, your experience may count enough that you may want to stick to the new alternative you fish out for yourself since now; you may not want to settle for less.

Yes, you can find a number of utilities, more powerful, feature full and having more functionality than Windows Explorer. Adding to it, some of these utilities are absolutely free for you. So, why are you still stuck to your kind of Windows Explorer? Here are some available alternatives for your Windows Explorer as third party software. Now pick the one that is most suitable for your need and liking.

You may remember that in the old days of DOS, there exists a DOS based popular file manager called Norton Commander. That single program had added host of functionalities to your PC, no one had imagined at that time. Suddenly, the mysterious and curious file operations in DOS became visible and open to all with Norton Commander. By Norton Commander, file management became easy to perform and you were able to know what you are doing and what is being done in your computer. Then, Windows File Manager arrived with earlier version of Windows OS, followed by Windows Explorer with Windows 95. They lets you perform basic file management, and for added functionality, you have to take help of third party software. For example, if you want to view content of a file prior to opening it, it is not possible in Windows Explorer. Here, you need Quick View. Further, built in Zip file Support is not available in Windows Explorer except in Windows ME. For all these and other functionality, either you have to take help of add on or plug in for your Windows Explorer from third party software or you have to use stand alone applications for your particular need like Quick view and ZipMagic etc. In situations like these, alternate applications having more functionality help you tremendously in improving your productivity. Some such utilities are described below:

PowerDesk:

This Explorer Style file manager is very popular for its rich features. This utility is being regularly carried on i.t. CD. You can find free version of Power Desk on Resource section of i.t. CD. Its more powerful version, PowerDesk Pro is available as commercial software. You can set PowerDesk so that it can replace the Windows Explorer altogether. When you launch Windows Explorer, Power Desk is launched which gives you added functionality to you. PowerDesk consists of following additional features:

· It is full-featured, powerful file manager.

· It has built in file finder

· Power Desk has Dual pane view which can be set horizontally or vertically and is extremely easy in file copying and moving in different drives and directory by dragging and dropping.

· Power Desk gives you full and integrated Zip and unzip capabilities within its explorer window. It shows compressed files as folders and can show its contents before file operations.

· It extends full support of QuickView and QuickView plus [if installed] for viewing files within its view pane. A number of graphics file format and Word and Excel format files can also be viewed within its preview pane.

· Power Desk has a customizable launchbar, from where, you can add or remove shortcuts to launch your favorite applications.

· Power Desk has viewer pane that can be made “Floating”

· There is a professional version of PowerDesk called PowerDesk Pro. The Professional Version comes with a number of additional features, such as:· FTP capabilities, Powerful integrated file viewers, Size Manager, Folder Synchronizer etc.

Once you install this application, soon you will forget about your Traditional Windows Explorer since you may never need it.

Magellan Explorer

Magellan Explorer is a Windows file, archive and FTP management utility, which has a familiar, dual window interface that makes copying, moving and comparing your files extremely easy. Magellan Explorer has integrated FTP and archive clients, which means that internet sites and compressed archives, such as Zip files, can be opened if as they were normal folders. You can move seamlessly between them using Bookmarks, History and Back / Forwards buttons just the way you do in your web browser. It has built-in tool chest that gives you the ability to display the size of highlighted folders, find files, and synchronize folders, time stamp files and much more with a single click. Magellan Explorer is fully customizable and it is possible to configure almost every aspect of Magellan Explorer, from how you select files down to the color of individual buttons.

Nico's Commander

Nico’s Commander is a Norton Commander like file manager with exciting features such as application buttons on task bar that you can configure to start your

favorite applications with single mouse click. Nico’s Commander has built-in zip and unzip function with ability to create self extracting ZIP archives and archives that span several floppies. Nico’s Commander also has built in file search capability that can search for strings inside files. It can compare directory and file and has built-in text editor without limitations that Windows Notepad has.

Nico’s Commander has FTP compatibility that allows you to transfer files over Network. It can print ASCII files in one or two page on a sheet. It has command prompt with command history that is very helpful to you if you prefer to work on command lines like UNIX. You can find a button called ExitWin in Nico’s Commander that allows you to exit and restart Windows or to shut down or reboot your machine. It means, you never need to exit to Nico’s Commander environment and click start button even for shutting down your machine.

Turbo Browser

This utility can be termed as futuristic File Management tool for your Windows. It supports almost all variety of file operations like file view, convert, print, compress, encrypt, copy, move, paste, delete, and batch process files all within Turbo Browser. Other conventional file management and Internet functions are also fully supported.

Turbo Browser supports Preview of traditional files like HTML, ZIP and E-mails, documents, spreadsheets, images, clip arts, and some multimedia files with its integrated viewer. You can configure its filters to view these files in several ways, such as in native, ASCII or binary format. You can view or listen to any number of multimedia files and set to slide show for hands-free operation with its Auto-view function. You can also preview the files that are stored in cache and Recycle Bin. You can also view compressed files from inside ZIP and E-mail without unzipping them.

Turbo Browser also comes with its built-in zipping, unzipping, decoding and disk spanning capabilities. Turbo Browser’s integrated conversion program can convert graphics in multiple formats including auto color reduction, which can save your precious storage space. Further, Turbo Browser can convert complex and formatted documents and spreadsheet files into plain ASCII text format which is very useful to you if you want to send them across internet as plain text.

Turbo Browser has integrated text editing feature that allows you to identify text and HTML code in the file list. It can give you fast preview, facilitates edit, and save the changes, including convenient ruler and cursor position indicator for added convenience while working with large text files.

Amazingly, Turbo Browser’s integrated printing feature can print graphics, document, spreadsheets, file list in ZIP and E-mail, Hex, and entire file list, without asking you to run the native applications.

Turbo Browser has a Searchbar which is designed to find files quickly. Similarly, there is another tool called Qbar which is designed to organize and automate your work. You can customize the Turbo Browser’s Qbuttons in the Qbar with processing engines to export or backup files, convert file formats, print files, autoview files, and play background music. You can drag and drop files from different folders, drives or even from computers into existing Qbuttons or into an empty area to create new ones.

Besides these, there are more than two dozen other File Managers available for you to try out. They are equally powerful, Feature rich and fast applications since normally they are tiny applications; on an average, less than 2 MB in size. Let us take a quick view to some of these.

· File Quest:

This application supports all versions of Windows and acts as Windows Explorer replacement having extra capabilities.

· Super Explorer:

It is a tool for Windows 95/98/NT that act beyond Windows Explorer Capabilities and is extremely easy in use.

· Easy Explorer:

You can manage your files easily and effectively with this file manager that supports Windows 95 up to Windows 2000.

· Explore 2000

It has Dynamic and recursive folder comparison tool along with its usual file management tools. But it is for only Windows 95/98/ME.

· Secure Disk Explorer

This program has some built in security features along with its file management functions. It supports Windows 3.x/9x.

· Hot Data Navigator

It has unique, flexible multi window interface that is really helpful if you work in multiple windows at a time. You can use it on your Windows 95/98 and NT machines.

· Power Drawers 2000

It is a unique file management utility known for its special interface. It supports all 32 bit versions of Windows.

· Directory Opus

It is a good Windows Explorer replacement if you want some speed in managing your files having large directory trees. It supports all 32 bit versions of Windows.

· Accel Man

If you combine file manager with Multimedia player, graphics viewer, text printer and some more functions, then what you get is Accel Man. It is available for Windows 95/98/NT/2000.

· Xplorer Plus 2000

It is a better replacement for your conventional Windows Explorer having some path breaking extra features. Try it on your Windows 95/98/NT machines.

· Dommelen Explorer

Managing files with several windows are never so easy with Dommelen Explorer. However, presently, it is available only for Windows 98/NT.

· Windows Commander

Way beyond Norton Commander, Windows Commander is known for its shell utility. You can work with it in all version of 32 bit Windows.

· AnyWhere

You can simplify your file management chores with this utility which is available for all versions of Windows.

· Drag and File Gold

It is a utility that can replace your Windows Explorer with some extra goodies. It works on Windows 95/98/NT

· Turbo Navigator

Navigate through your files and directory in style with Turbo Navigator. It is available for all versions of Windows.

· WinNC 2000

This utility is like NC, but for Windows. And it is available for Windows 95/98 and NT.

· 2xExplorer

If you want to manage your files more efficiently, then look no further. 2xExplorer is the utility for you. You can use it on all version of 32 bit Windows.

· Singularity 2000 Filemanager

It is a simple yet fast file manager for Windows NT/@\2000.

· File Master

File master is a file manager that also has FTP capabilities. It supports Windows 95/ NT.

· Gset Explorer

It has built in support to view for more than 50 media file format. You can use it on Windows 95/98 and NT machines.

· Frigate

It supports all version of 32 bit Windows except Windows ME and has built in support for many compressed files.

· File Maven Pro

It also has dual directory type window that make your file management easy. You can use it on all version of 32 bit Windows.

· Twin Explorer Plus Image

It is a Windows Explorer replacement utility with extra capabilities. It is released for Windows 95/98 and NT.

· WinBrowser

It is an alternate tool for Windows Explorer having some automated features. It works on Windows 95/98/NT.

· Universal Explorer

You can go way beyond the file management capabilities of Windows Explorer with Universal Explorer.

· File Tiger

Manage your files with power of File Tiger. It has Dual pan for management of file operations along with other host of features.

Among the above listed software, except some commercial software, most are Shareware and some, such as Easy Explorer, Fast Explorer, Twin Explorer, Gset Explorer, 2xExplorer, Turbo Navigator and Powerdesk are freeware. You can find some of these utilities on past issues of i.t. CDs. So, why, repeat; why you are still adhering to your traditional Windows Explorer when you have option to Explore in style?

Snapshot Descriptions:

  1. Explore1.bmp: PowerDesk : the powerful file manager- a regular on resource section of i.t. CD.
  2. Explore2.bmp: In PowerDesk, you can create short cut on its task bar or open documents etc. through single mouse click on task pan.
  3. Explore3.bmp PowerDesk has some innovative facilities such as only file name or directory name is copied instead of all its contents.
  4. Explore4.bmp In PowerDesk, you can make access instantly to any number of your favorite folders with a single mouse click. Simply add them once in your favorite button.
  5. Explore5.bmp PowerDesk is highly customizable, its every feature can be customized by its preference settings.
  6. Explore6.bmp In Powerdesk, you can view files in more than one way.
  7. Explore7.bmp Magellan explorer has dual window that makes your file operations easy.
  8. Explore8.bmp Every aspect of Magellan explorer is customizable.
  9. Explore9.bmp Magellan explorer add right click menu named “Voyage from here” on start button of Windows by which you can launch this utility.
  10. Explore10.bmp Age old, DOS based Norton Commander, popularly known as NC, is at your service.
  11. Explore11.jpg PwerDesk has Vertical / Horizontal or Floating preview Pan- set it as you like.
  12. Explore12.jpg Drag and File Gold has some very handy and useful file operation tools as buttons on its task pan which can be customized.
  13. Explore13.jpg Windows Commander can be installed with support of multiple languages.
  14. Explore14.jpg Windows Commander has host of other features that can be customized.
  15. Explore15.jpg Windows Commander has built in preview pan with some nice features.
  16. Explore16.jpg A sleek file management utility having task pan at the bottom of the window for easy access.
  17. Explore17.bmp Look at this, glamour less orphaned Windows Explorer! Do you still want to bear it when you have rich alternatives?
  18. Explore18.bmp Nico’s Commander _ another file management utility. You can add short cuts of your file operations in its task pan for single click operations.
  19. Explore19.bmp Give tribute to powerful, built in file viewer of TurboBrowser, a premier file management utility.

Know thy computer

Examine your Computer

Did you ever wonder what is there under the hood of your Computer? If you had ever worried, you might have opened the cabinet of your Computer and had a look inside it. Some parts, chips, capacitors and resisters having cryptic prints over them that all you may have seen and still wondering what all are these? It is really hard to find facts about your Computer’s hardware if your vendor has not given you the manuals that are supplied with motherboards and other peripherals of your Computer. Similarly, do you know that what, where and how software installed in your Computer and how much space they are occupying in your Computer’s Hard disks? If you are unsure about all these and really want to know more (perhaps everything in some cases) about the hardware and software installed in your Computer, than it is high time to use some tools to look in to your Computer without opening its hood or its manuals.

With some built in tools of your Computer’s Operating System or with the help of some additional applications, it is possible to know practically every details about the installed Hardware and Software in your Computer. You can find these tools for every prominent OS like Linux, UNIX and Mac OS including Windows. Presently, let us concentrate our Examination on most popular - Windows platform.

Windows System Information

If you have installed Windows with MS Office, simply click Start Menu, click Run and than type “msinfo32” without inverted commas in the input box that appear, and hit enter. Alternately, go to Start button, Program, Accessories, System tools and click System Information. The Windows System Information gives you elaborated, different information about software and hardware installed in your Computer. Latest version gives you more information in every aspect, whereas earlier version may not give you that detailed information. If this command does not work due to some reasons such as older version of Windows, try command “msinfo” instead. Here, in earlier versions of Windows, you can see some information as well, but limited to an extent. The system information utility that supplied with latest version of Windows cover practically all aspect of your installed hardware, but it may not tell you about the software that you may have installed. For that, you have to look elsewhere and take help of special applications.

Belark Advisor

This application generates a snapshot of your Computer’s installed software and hardware after running it, and shows it in friendly HTML page, through which you can browse to the generated data and know about the stuff inside your Computer. If you click the link that marked with a * sign, you can directly go to where the indicated software is installed. This application is good for examining the installed software. It reproduced blueprint of nearly all software installed in all recognizable hard drive and partitions in your Computer.

Driver Detective

This application comes to rescue you when you need to analyze and examine the installed Driver of your Computer. You can also update your device driver with the help of this application. Upon running, Driver Detective gathers the information about all the drivers installed in your Computer and then finally displays it. You can update your driver through this software by simply clicking its shortcut on its application menu. It will take you to www.drivershq.com where your installed driver is compared with their current data base and if your current driver happens to be of older version than it automatically updates your driver after getting your option to update it. It has capability to show other information as well, but they are insignificant and are not worth mentioning.

PC Information

PC Information is a powerful tool that can inform you every tiny details of your PC. This application can show you details of your Computer’s hardware and software in very friendly way. You simply have to click the corresponding tab which you want to know about, and it will show you the details in the window that appears. Every time you run PC Information, it gathers information and refreshes itself to show you Latest information about your computer.

Bonsai system view

Bonsai system view allows you to view detailed information about your Computer’s hardware, software and running processes. It has Explorer style window where you have to click different icons to view contents of said category. Clicking Start button shows you information about your system’s summary, locale etc. Software button shows you all the installed software in the Computer along with auto start applications, ActiveX/COM components and ODBC data sources. Clicking Drives and Files icon instantly shows you drive information and space analysis, where you can see how much space is occupied by which application and folder. This feature helps you in analyzing your hard drive space. Network icon informs you about your network adopters and protocols. Devices icon is there for you to tell about various devices and peripherals installed in your Computer. Similarly, memory icon tells you about status of memory currently installed in your Computer. CPU icon tells you about your Computer’s CPU’s identity and its detailed features. Printer and Faxes icon can tell you details and capabilities about your installed Printer and Fax. Display button can diagnose your display card’s performance. Fonts tab dynamically shows you all the installed fonts in your system exactly the way they appear when they are printed. Clicking configuration files icon lets view your configuration files like win.ini, system.ini, config.sys, autoexec.bat etc., which can later be edited for rectifying any error for system improvement purpose.

SiSoft Sandra

This [Sandra for System ANalyst Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant] application has so many built in functions that you need to explore its entire submenu, popup menu, modules and wizards. After installing this software, you are presented with a window similar to Windows98 control panel window that has numerous icons representing their respective hardware and software settings. Though you can explore individual section by clicking separate icons, you can generate your Computer’s entire system’s report by using ‘create a report wizard’. The generated report can be prepared in any form such as Plain text, hierarchical report [rpf] , html or xml format that can be sent to remote locations for further diagnostics. In addition to that, you can find performance enhancement tips in every section that you can apply to increase performance of your Computer. SiSoft Sandra not only reports you about your system’s settings, but it also let you analyze and compare [benchmark] your hardware with some predetermined standard benchmarks. It can benchmark nearly all your Computer’s hardware and report you in a friendly graphical form. It takes nearly 5 minutes [may take more in slower system] to generate a detailed report of huge 2.5 MB html file with every option selected. However, you can make individual report for individual parts such as CPU or CD-ROM drive.

While preparing benchmark, it warns you to do not move your mouse, or press any keys, since it will induce error in benchmarking. SiSoft Sandra works well on reporting your Hardware but it does not say more about your System’s software. Further, it supports only Windows9x and may not run correctly in other versions of windows.

There are other sources through you can get information about your Computer system. For example, Visual Basic development tool has option to add a button that can show system information from within your application you are creating. You may find several applications that can show you system information, more or less they call ‘msinfo32’ to show you system information. Similarly, if you have Norton Utilities or Nuts&Bolts installed, than you can see advanced system information from these applications as well.

So, do not be ignorant about inside out of your Computer, get tools as mentioned above, examine closely and know everything that you consider worthwhile.

Box item

Information you may know with the help of these applications may include some or more among these:

  • CPU Architecture, type, active mask, count, level, revision, vendor ID, speed and other relevant details with their benchmark.
  • Details of Memory and its allocation.
  • Details about other connected Hardware like graphic card, sound card, network and modems etc, with their benchmark.
  • Various installed applications and drivers.
  • ODBC Data sources that are installed in your Computer.
  • Installed ActiveX/COM components.
  • Information about your Computer’s hard drive, BIOS etc.
  • Details about Network Adopter, Protocols, Services and Clients etc.
  • Windows users and Windows Socket information.
  • OS version, build number, platform, version name and serial number [WindowsXP’s system information can test your copy whether it is legal or not].
  • Your Computer’s IP address.
  • Last boot date, time, system up time, running process etc.

Snapshot Descriptions:

    1. Sysinf01 Microsoft System Information can be called to run from various applications. You can get detailed information about your most hardware and Microsoft software.
    2. Sysinf02 Microsoft System Information showing running task of computer.
    3. Sysinf03 Applications like Balarc Advisor that can give you loads of information about your computer’s Hardware and Software are easy to install and use.
    4. Sysinf04 Balarc Advisor, analyzing the Computer’s Hardware and Software to finally report you about these in friendly HTML format
    5. Sysinf05 The generated HTML file by Balarc Advisor which shows details of installed software and hardware in the computer.
    6. Sysinf06 Balarc Advisor can track down every installed Windows Software in the computer’s all recognizable Hard drive and partitions.
    7. Sysinf07 Driver Detective can detect and diagnose your Computer’s installed Device Drives and can update your Drivers.
    8. Sysinf08 Driver Detective in action. The details of Driver for Logitech Mouse are shown here. Every detail like Product Name, Language, and Version etc. can be viewed.
    9. Sysinf09 PC Information: This application can show you details about your Computer’s hardware and software in friendly way. You simply have to click respective tab to view the contents.
    10. Sysinf10 PC Information showing running task of Computer.
    11. Sysinf11 PC Information can inform you about your installed software in very friendly way. You can view version no., size, Date and their location.
    12. Sysinf12 System View is another similar application like PC information. Only the interface is different.
    13. Sysinf13 System View showing computer’s Installed Software.
    14. Sysinf14 System View can analyze your hard drive’s space and its utilization. It can show which file / folder occupies how much space in a friendly, graphical view.
    15. Sysinf15 System View showing Sound, Video, and game controller’s details.
    16. Sysinf16 System View showing details about computer’s installed CPU and its other properties.
    17. Sysinf17 Computer’s instantaneous parameter like CPU and memory utilization is best shown in application like System View.
    18. Sysinf18 Running process of computer showing on System View.
    19. Sysinf19 SiSoft Sandra : The popular Windows9x benchmarking tool can show you nearly everything about your computer in friendly way. Simply click the icon related to the topic you want to know more.
    20. Sysinf20 You can create a detailed report by create a report wizard in SiSoft Sandra.
    21. Sysinf21 The System Report file in HTML format that is generated by SiSoft Sandra contains nearly every detail about your computer’s hardware you want to know.
    22. Sysinf22 SiSoft Sandra can bench mark your computer’s hardware including memory, graphic card, hard drive etc.

Offline Browsers - Re-defining the web experience – huh?

Diagnosis: Browsing Nightmares.

Rx

Offline Browsers (s.o.s.)

You may be extremely happy that rates of internet surfing are going rock bottom level and even at some places in India too, some ISPs such as Caltiger and Mantra Online are offering you free internet surfing over TCP/IP connections. But your happiness goes on drain when you really encounter Browsing Nightmares such as very low bandwidth, unstable connection due to less speed and unable to connect primarily due to limited bandwidth, thanks to ever increasing number of internet users. In such situations, not only your precious time gets wasted; you eventually end up in paying huge telephone bills apart from frustrations. The situations become more serious when you try to connect from remote areas, say from non-metro cities or from where there is limited access lines are provided by ISPs. Further, with a normal browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, when you surf the Internet and look upon a page or read the contents of the page or simply chat, then your modem becomes idle for that period of time. This idle time did not provide you any productivity and add up your Internet surfing cost for nothing. Of course, main browsers provide you off line browsing facility, but they facilitate you only the cached content of web that you had already visited on a certain day or date. Your can also set your browser to download or refresh your favorite site automatically at a preset idle time for offline browsing, but they lack features and are not intuitive. Not only TCP/IP connections, but ISDN connections and dedicated leased lines also suffer these aliments due to limited Internet Gateway Bandwidth of ISP providers. The only remedy for above situation is offline browsing using third party offline browsing tools.

Why offline browsing?

Some of the reasons that compel you to use offline browsing include:

v Convenience: You can access your downloaded, saved files any time you wish without having to connect to Internet. Frequently accessed web sites can be stored locally and updating may be synchronized with that of site. For example, if a site is updated weekly, then you need to synchronized once a week and for rest of the for whole week, you can use downloaded web site any time you wish without going online.

v Super Speed: Loading web pages from local disc becomes instantaneous and you don’t have to wait and mock upon rotating earth of IE or any other animated figures of your browser that tell you busy sign of downloading pages.

v Great Money Saver: Your overall cost of surfing will be less because of offline browsing. Some offline browsers and file down loaders try to down load many pages at a time from number of servers, thereby further reducing cost of surfing. You can further save your money by intelligent scheduling and adopting non peak load hours browsing such as Flexi Time of Satyam Online between 10 P.M. to 8 A.M. where your surfing hours are counted at discounted rates. That is, if you surf for two hours during those specific times, then you will be billed for only one hour. Besides, you don’t have to burn midnight candle for those odd hours, thanks to offline browsers. You can set your offline browser to download specific sites at those odd times, and after completion of task, it will automatically log off and even shut off your computer, ready to surf offline at later hours of your convenience. And remember, you will get blazingly high speed during those odd hours because relatively less traffic over the Internet. It means that say, a 1 MB file will take much less time to download as compared to normal traffic hours. You can also set your e-mail client such as Outlook express through task scheduler that it will connect to Internet at those odd hours, send and receive all your mail and shut down the system if you so require.

v Space Saver too: Some offline browsing tools such as WebZIP goes soft on your hard disk space, since they put downloaded internet sites in zipped format. Later you can browse those zipped files as normal Internet site with the help of either internal browser of WebZIP or any external browser such as Internet Explorer.

v Fast download: Offline browsers / File Down loaders down load several files at a time, reducing down load time. Choosing not to down load graphics or multimedia files can further reduce the down load time.

v Create firewall: Offline browsers create insulation between real dangerous worlds of Internet to your system. Illegal outside access, hacking and sneaking in to your system can be minimized if you use simple file down loader and using offline browsing.

v Other: Training web technique without involving high online cost is possible, limiting recreational surfing at commercial organization is possible, limiting access to the Quality & Quantity of web content can be effectively implemented. These are also some of major factor that advocates in favor of offline browsing.

Offline browsing is really catching, that is why you can find more than a dozen offline browsing tools packed with features and Internet file down loaders available today for your service and main browsers are also heading in this direction. Some popular offline browsers are WebStripper, NearSite, WebSnake, Teleport Pro, Web Leech, WebWhacker and WebZip, Web VCR, File Hound, John’s Downloader, GoZilla, Download Demon, WebREAPER, Download Butler, Web Copier, and Download Wonder. Let us see how some of they function and what they offer.

WebStripper : This is a new category of freeware program, that shows the enormous potential of Internet. This program is funded solely by advertisements. When you use this program, an advertising bar runs over the top of program menu. But you can purchase the commercial version by registering if you do not want to get disturbed by the advertising bar, which also hamper your downloading speed by constantly updating its advertising bar in background. Apart from this snag of advertising bar, the program is feature rich and you can configure it to how to down load and what to down load. There is option to exclude graphics and multimedia files for faster down load. The down loaded files are saved in a separate pre assigned file for browsing at a later time. WebStripper is easy to use; highly Configurable and a running task can be paused any time. The files downloaded up to that time remain usable. This program speeds up stripping by downloading several objects at once. WebStripper can be left running unattended safely. It will hang up and disconnect your Internet connection when its task gets completed. The only drawback it has is that it does not have its own internal browser, nor it integrates with any main browser. It simply downloads the files from Internet at great speed and save files on your disk for offline browsing.

Near site: Main feature of this offline browser is it works closely with your browser. It may be rated as browser plug in. NearSite’s intelligent cache takes over from browser’s cache and can be set to automatically retrieve Web pages daily, weekly or monthly basis. NearSite’s intelligent Channels maintain your own chunk of web, ready to use any time. NearSite can archive downloaded web pages for permanent record and with the help of this program, you can distribute web pages on floppy disk or on CD or on DAT drive. NearSite also works as Proxy server and allows you to provide web access to network users with just one Internet connection.

WebSnake: WebSnake is primarily an offline browsing tool that provides you added tools with which you can mirror a website including the directory structure of original web site. So you can sneak in to great web sites to see how a web site is set up. WebSnake also grabs e-mail addresses form a site, build map or structure of remote website, search for specific keywords on a web site, and retrieve specific types of files from specific web sites. WebSnake is fully customizable to down load anything from a single file to the entire site along with all links to it or from other remote site. WebSnake can be set to refresh or download a site on hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, at startup or when idle. You can choose specific day say, Sunday the day with minimum load on Internet to optimize downloading performance of WebSnake.

Teleport Pro: This offline browser has some additional features than standard offline browser. This program provides you searching web site for certain type and size of files, automatic download of selected list of files from the Internet, and make a list of all pages and files on a web site to make specific file downloading easier and thus relieving you from downloading garbage. Teleport Pro uses a special search algorithm to rapidly search web pages, identify and classify their links, and then retrieve all files matching the file types you specify to download. If you have not specified the file types, then it will download every file. Teleport is programmed to remember everything it has downloaded, hence it will never download same file twice, however, this feature can be forced to retrieve files again if you think that the file has been corrupted somewhere. There is a scheduler with which you can schedule your file-downloading task.

Web Leech: The most distinguishing features of Web Leech between other similar type offline web browser are its Windows explorer type interface. You can drag and drop desired files from remote sites to local folder for downloading. This program lack its internal browser, but it supports main browser like Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator for offline browsing of downloaded files. However, the program also lacks in options, and there is no provision for automating and scheduling task.

WebNails: What if your offline browser has retrieved hundreds of files and you have to sneak in to every file rapidly to pick out the desired content in a hurry? In such situation, call for help of WebNails, that generates interactive, resizable thumbnails complete with inline graphics for the web pages you have downloaded. Thus your cumbersome task of page hunting become easy and you can find desired file much easier and earlier. WebNails can automatically retrieve your cached or saved web pages in thumbnail view. At startup, it asks whether you have surf the Internet or not. If you say yes then it searches your hard drive for the updated files, and then displays the downloaded files in thumbnail view. If you want to view any web page fully, then double clicking it will give you full view. This program is not designed to download files from Internet, which is often considered as main feature of offline browser. But at times, thumbnail view of web pages may help you if you work in volume and want to search some valuables in a hurry.

FileHound: This program is basically a file down loader, that download files from Internet for you to browse at later time using offline-browsing facility of your standard main browser. This is one of most powerful file down loader program available today that gives you facility to down multiple files at once, has built in complete session logging for error recovery and program diagnosis, has bandwidth throttling facility so that you can perform another task over Internet while downloading files in back ground. However it does not provide you much of options to down load a site and scheduling is difficult, it can turn off your system when your file downloading gets completed.

WebWhaker: WebWhaker is fully customizable Internet file down loader that provides you facility to create categories to organize your downloaded sites in to main desktop area of program. There is a status bar that provides you status of progress of current task. WebWhaker works with browser i.e. it restarts your Web browser after closing WebWhaker, thus allowing you to continue browsing the web. There is facility for scheduling the task of WebWhaker so that it can download files for you, unattended. It can also be set to download your e-mail on a regular basis. You can apply filters so that WebWhaker will down load only specific type and size of file. Use of this application is simple since it supports drag and drop facility and a small program icon group remain visible over top and while you are surfing normally, simply drag and drop the file or URL, and the rest will be done by the WebWhaker.

WebZip: WebZip is a unique program that facilitates you to download web sites completely or in parts and save it on disk simultaneously in zipped format, saving your disk space. You can then browse zipped web site offline with WebZip or if you want your standard browser, then you have to unzip it first. With WebZip, you can also perform standard file zipping and unzipping task. You can conveniently move or send zipped web site to another computer or e-mail as attachment. This is powerful down loader can download 16 pages simultaneously if your connection and bandwidth permit so. WebZip is fully customizable so that you can define what to down load and when to down load.

eCatch: This is a feature rich offline browser that has powerful built in integrated browser for offline surfing of downloaded web pages. The down loadable site can be fully customizable and you can schedule it too. You can assign entire site or set depth level, files to include, files to exclude, follow server address or not etc. Its multi threaded downloading capability lets you to down load up to 50 pages at a time if your bandwidth thus permit you. eCatch is fully programmable to work automatically so as to connects, downloads and disconnects on its own.

A word of caution

Using offline browsers are tricky. You have to manually evaluate an offline browser’s usability at your end. You have to tweak in to and configure an offline browser’s option and preferences manually, as the default setting are usually useless and if you use default settings, then you may end up in downloading stuff you have never wanted. For example, a file down loader may have hundreds of URL (as advertisement of those sites) in its default address to which it will attempt to refresh after its first launch. You have to manually disable or delete those unwanted URL, add your own, set depth level, define file types to download and then only it will be useful to you. Further, offline browsing may not suit every body. If you surf from site to site at random, or search for specific content and want to compare them, chat, play games over Internet etc., then there is no option other than but online browsing. If you download a full site for offline browsing, then firstly, it will not be useful for you the whole site content; secondly, it will take up lot of time and disk space.

Still, offline browsing is valuable when you visit a site regularly and frequently, a web site’s whole content attracts you, and finally, if you regularly download big files such as movies, music and program files- freeware, shareware, patches or free upgrades off the Internet.

UPDATE : Recently, a small startup company named Webaroo has started giving Offline Browsing pack for free. The highly compressed webaroo packs contains specialized, pre-downloaded contents from web that can be browsed offline. For example, its Wikipedia pack having 8 GB size in a dual layer DVD ROM will have entire contents of Wikipedia, and can be browsed through any browser without the need of an active Internet connection.

Re-defining the web experience – huh?

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