Some of the best gems are those that let you dowhat you should have been able to do in the first place. For example, PDF files have become a common way to exchange information — even Web sites often provide information via PDF. But clicking on a PDF link in your OS X Web browser generally downloads the file to your computer — you then have to open it in Preview or Acrobat Reader. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could view those PDF files right in your Web browser, as you can with other files?
Manfred Schubert’s PDF Browser Plugin (
) is a free plug-in that turns your Web browser into a very capable PDF viewer. Clicking on a link to a PDF file loads it in your browser — and even scales it to fit the current browser window. (Note that the latest version of PDF Browser Plugin isn’t compatible with Internet Explorer; you can download an earlier compatible version from the developer’s Web site.)
Preset keyboard commands allow you to navigate viewed PDF files. The PDF Browser Plugin menu lets you open the PDF file in your normal PDF viewer (such as Preview or Acrobat), print the file or save it to your hard drive, and zoom in and out. Although you can save or print via your browser’s File menu, using the plug-in menu to perform these tasks provides a few extra features. When you save a PDF file, PDF Browser Plugin puts the file’s URL in its Finder comments field; this can be helpful if you need to return to the source. When you print, you can choose to scale the print job to fit your paper, and to print odd or even pages (so you can create double-sided printouts).
Note that if you have PDF Browser Plugin installed, you can still download a PDF file without viewing it; simply control-click on the link to the PDF file and then select Download or Save, depending on the browser you’re using.
Given Apple’s focus on PDF as a document format, I suspect that Safari will eventually support PDF files. Until then, PDF Browser Plugin is a useful addition to your browser repertoire.
One great thing about Apple’s iPod is the music player’s svelte form. One not-so-great thing is the fact that its chrome-and-white surfaces pick up more scratches than a new car in a supermarket parking lot. As a result, a cottage industry has sprung up — iPod cases. But unfortunately, although most of these cases protect your iPod, few do so without adding considerable bulk, thus presenting iPod owners with a difficult choice: a svelte music player or a scratch-free one.
Enter RadTech’s $20 PodSleevz (
) for Apple’s newer-generation iPods. Based on RadTech’s excellent PowerSleevz for PowerBooks and iBooks, PodSleevz are thin (less than 1mm thick) microfiber covers that fit your iPod like a glove. Their material, which RadTech calls Optex, is tough enough to withstand tearing and scuffing, but soft enough that you can use a PodSleevz case as a polishing cloth for your iPod or your PowerBook screen. And with a little wiggling, you can fit your PodSleevz-wrapped iPod in Apple’s iPod belt case.
Many cases force you to remove your iPod to use it, but your iPod remains fully functional while inside a PodSleevz case. A clear plastic window lets you view the screen, a slot on the bottom provides room to connect the dock cable, and embossed areas on the PodSleevz case’s face correspond to the controls on your iPod — the material is thin enough that the touch-sensitive controls still work. In addition, one unintended — but welcome — consequence of using a PodSleevz case is that it ever so slightly desensitizes the iPod’s touch-sensitive controls. When you accidentally brush against a button, your iPod no longer skips songs or stops playback — a maddeningly frequent occurrence in my experience.
A PodSleevz iPod cover won’t protect your iPod from a fall onto concrete, but when you just want to slip your iPod into your pocket or toss it into a bag, a PodSleevz is perfect. You get protection without bulk.
Despite the proliferation of electronic vCard files and Palm handhelds that let you beam contact information across a room, business cards are still very popular.
In fact, good printers are so inexpensive these days that many people design their own cards and print them on business-card stock. But there are two hurdles to this approach. First, it isn’t easy to create an effective card design — there’s a reason people get paid good money to do it for you. Second, laying the card out to print properly can be a real hassle.
A solution to both of these problems is BeLight Software’s $40 Business Card Composer (
). It lets you create, lay out, and print professional-looking business cards. But what makes Business Card Composer (BCC) so great is how easy it is to use. Choose a general design from more than 100 included templates. Next, enter your personal information — you can type data into text fields or, thanks to excellent integration with OS X, simply select any record from OS X’s Address Book. (If you’re the creative type, you can start with a blank slate and build your card from scratch, skipping these first two steps.) Then pick your card stock — popular stocks from most major vendors are included. Finally, click on Finish to preview your card.
While previewing, you can take advantage of BCC’s impressively customizable layout and design features. You can change the size, color, or orientation of any design element; add image masks (more than 50 are included); use gradients and fills; edit backgrounds and borders; and even add graphics or pictures (more than 500 are included, or you can drag and drop your own onto the card). When you’re ready, click on the print icon and out come your cards, ready for cutting.
You can save your card design to print more in the future, or you can use the current design as a template for creating cards for several people. Even if you don’t have a printer that can produce business cards, you can use BCC to create and lay out your cards, and then have them printed professionally. Either way, you’ll appreciate how easy it makes creating cards.
This and Dat
If you frequently receive e-mail from Windows users, you may have received attachments called winmail.dat (or files identified as application/ms-tnef) and found that you couldn’t open them, no matter what you tried. These attachments are sometimes viruses, but you may know that there are legitimate files hidden inside. The problem is that some combinations of Windows Exchange e-mail servers and Windows Outlook e-mail clients result in attachments encoded as Microsoft TNEF stream files, without regard to the recipient’s ability to receive files in that format. The solution is TNEF’s Enough (
), a free utility from Joshua S. Jacob.
After saving a problematic attachment to your hard drive, drag it to the TNEF’s Enough icon, or choose File: Open and select the file. Depending on how you’ve set up Enough’s preferences, the application will either save embedded files to your hard drive or present you with a dialog box that lets you save each one. If there are multiple files, you can also choose to create an enclosing folder.
The interface is fairly sparse, and TNEF’s Enough doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but if you ever experience this problem and need to get to the enclosed files, this app is the only game in town.
In the keep-an-eye-out-for-this department, Raging Menu recently released a beta of SideTrack, its replacement for OS X’s trackpad driver. SideTrack lets you designate a portion of your PowerBook or iBook trackpad as a “scrollpad” — simply drag your finger up and down (or left and right) to scroll through windows. In addition, pressing the trackpad button and tapping on the trackpad can do two different things; for example, one can be a standard click and the other a control-click. Once you’ve tried it, doing without the ability to easily scroll and control-click with the trackpad will be difficult. (SideTrack is currently a beta version of a kernel extension; make sure to read the documentation provided before you install it.)
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