Category Archives: smArtist tools

50 tips, tweaks and hacks for Google Calendar!

Hi guys! I’m coming out of a post-Germany haze of sickness to link you to some handy tweaks for Google Calendar. I’m a total nut for Google Calendar and basically run my entire life through it now. Here’s the link:

50 tips, tweaks and hacks for Google Calendar!

My two favorites from the list are as follows:

16) Facebook Integration: If you’re a fan of the social networking program Facebook you’ll love this script. It allows you to easily transfer your Facebook events to your Google Calendar so you’ll never miss a get together.
25) Better GCal: This script combines several helpful scripts including skins, collapsed headers, secure connections, text wrap and more.

Enjoy!

Google Browser Size – Great tool for portfolio design testing

This is extremely cool! Check out Google Browser Size.

Essentially, this web tool will draw an overlay map of your website marking the different resolution boundaries and showing you how likely people at different resolutions are to be able to see different parts of your website. Some people with low resolutions won’t scroll down to view the site. Here’s a quote from that page showing why this is important:

Using this visualization, Bruno confirmed that about 10% of users couldn’t see the download button without scrolling, and thus never noticed it. 10% may not sound like a lot, but in this context it turns out to mean a significant number of people weren’t downloading Google Earth. Using this data, the team was able to redesign the page to good effect.

This would be a great tool for artists to check the usability of their website at different resolutions and to get ideas on how to tweak the design for better results. What if potential employers simply don’t see all of your art or scroll to view all the content? Google Browser Size could be a great tool for analyzing that. Go check it out!

Productivity tip #14: Lookout – hyperfast indexed search in Outlook

Here is my FAVORITE Outlook tool. It’s lightning fast indexed search that beats the pants off anything Microsoft has. Microsoft liked it so much, in fact, that they purchased the company, then killed the project completely. This paved the way for their horrible and criminally useless Desktop Search without any pesky competition to get in the way. Hooray!

Anyway, Lookout is the best email search tool ever devised. You can download Lookout here:

http://majorgeeks.com/Lookout_d4808.html

And if you’re using Outlook 2007, follow these VERY simple instructions to make it work:

http://www.belshe.com/2007/12/06/how-to-install-lookout-on-outlook-2007/

Once you have tons of email, you’ll see why this rules so much. 🙂 The flexibility, speed and ease of use is astounding. To give you a brief comparison, I spent about an hour trying to figure out how to make Microsoft Desktop Search manually index my email. After I figured that out, it took 30 hours to index fully. Within 30 minutes of installing Lookout, everything was set up and fully indexed. Lookout’s search is also ridiculously faster and easier to use. It’s the first thing I install with any new Outlook installation. Enjoy!

Anyone have any other handy Outlook plugins? I’ve been meaning to do a post on Xobni as well…

Productivity Tip #13: PathCopy for fast pathname copying!

One of my favorite and most-used apps that I might not have talked about before is PathCopy. It copies a filename with full path info to the clipboard *instantly*.

Ever wanted to be able to instantly click on a file and copy its full path to your clipboard? For example, let’s say you want to send a link to a file on the network to someone, or perhaps you’re trying to open a file in MAX and don’t want to click through all the dozens of subdirectories to find it. Now you can do it with PathCopy! It’ll let you copy the long filename, the short filename (DOS 8.3 style), the entire pathname, the entire URL, anything.

Since it’s a Windows shell extension, you can right-click a file OR folder inside any Windows Explorer window and quickly click through it. It even handles multiple files and copies them all to your clipboard with appropriate linebreaks! It’s tremendously useful, and I wish I’d had this years ago! Maaaaajor time-saver. I use this dozens of times a day.

PathCopy overview: http://home.worldonline.dk/ninotech/freeutil.htm#pathcopy

Download link: http://www.simtel.net/product.download.mirrors.php?id=57104

Now I’m curious: What are YOUR favorite productivity widgets? Be they websites, hacks, plugins for preexisting apps you use every day, or useful little applications that brighten up your life, I’m curious to see what you guys use to wring that extra little bit of productivity out of every minute of the day. 🙂

The Freelancer’s Toolset

I found something awesome on LifeHacker a moment ago that smArtists may appreciate. It’s called The Freelancer’s Toolset. It’s a list of 100 web applications to enhance freelancers’ productivity.

It looks like a fantastic list! Here’s a few highlights from it:

  • Stikkit is a central sticky note repository that interfaces with apps like Outlook. It stores names, addresses, birthdays and other snippets of information. It’s also open for collaboration even for people that don’t have or use Stikkit… and you can email it notes, too, which is pretty cool.
  • NetVibes which I use. Basically it’s the ultimate customizable homepage, much like My Yahoo, except more flexible. You can turn any RSS feed into its own window, as well as drop all sorts of kickass productivity applications onto one page. It even has separate tabs you can load up with different categories of information. For example, I have a tab that contains a calendar, my personal life todo list, upcoming holidays and weather. On another tab, I have a series of small boxes that contain RSS feeds to every major news site I visit. On another tab, I have useless crap I waste time with. 🙂 There’s a huge, thriving community of amateur developers that make modules and custom applications for it to make it infinitely extendable. I highly recommend checking out NetVibes.
  • Google Calendar – I use this as an embedded window in NetVibes. It’s simple, straightforward and fun to use. I also set it up to email and text message me on my phone anytime I have an upcoming appointment so I never forget. It’s indispensible!
  • FreshBooks – The Fastest Way to Invoice! This is a really cool and well-positioned company. Invoicing can be a bit of a bitch and this can help you keep track of it more easily. You can manage a huge series of invoices, send them by snail mail through the website, track the time spent on the job, accept payment online, manage work orders and generate reports. What a kickass idea!
  • ConceptShare – An online visual collaboration tool. Basically, add notes or paintovers to anything you need to, and have small sticky notes that can turn into miniature discussion threads that float on top of the image and have pointers everywhere. This is so damn cool, I may try using it myself with my contractors.
  • Meebo – Gain access to every single IM app on the planet through their website without downloading or installing anything. This is such a mind-bogglingly great idea. smArtists, listen up — IM communication is incredibly useful, and offering it can often be a good thing. Whenever possible, offer it as a quicker alternative for email for smaller, quicker questions. Even if you don’t use that app normally, Meebo can help. 🙂
  • K7 – A terrible name but an awesome service. This will set up a temporary phone number for you to receive faxes and voicemail messages, which are emailed to you. What a great idea!
  • Nolo – Got a legal question that pertains to contracting? Have it answered here and check out their articles and how-tos.

Any other gems I might have missed?

101 Hidden Tips and Secrets for Photoshop

Found a cool article this morning: 101 Hidden Tips and Secrets for Photoshop

Some useful information in here I didn’t know. A few repeats, but here were some of the highlights I found most useful:

  • 5. Sick of the default gray background around your image? Select paint bucket, hold shift and click on the gray background, it will change to whatever color you have in your foreground color box.
  • 10. Hold Ctrl will temporary make any tool into move tool until you release Ctrl.
  • 19. When free transforming with Ctrl+T, hold Alt to keep the original image and then to transform a duplicated layer of it. Ctrl+Shift+T to repeat whatever you did in the last transform.
  • 28. Hold Alt while clicking on the eye icon beside the layer, it will hide all other layers.
  • 39. Ctrl+Tab allows you to switch between different image files you are working on.
  • 58. Change the active layer : Alt + [ or ].
  • 59. Move the active layer up and down : Ctrl + [ or ].
  • 62. When using the Polygonal Lasso Tool, click backspace to undo a lasso step.

Hope these are helpful. 🙂

Productivity Tip #8: Launchy for hyper-fast file access!

I’ve been looking for ways to improve my PC workflow, and I touched on that in an earlier Productivity Tip. One of my readers suggested that I use Launchy, which is “an open source keystroke launcher for Windows.” Essentially it’s an application that runs silently in the background that lets you quickly and easily access indexed data through super simple keystrokes. It’s simple to use and incredibly powerful.

For example, let’s say I need to open one of my most commonly accessed files, HumanMaleVisuals.gc. I’ll show you what I did before Launchy, and now what I do after Launchy:

  • Without Launchy: I have to open an Explorer window and navigate to c:depotdungeonrunnersbuildgameavatarraceshumanmale and then open HumanMaleVisuals.gc. This is annoying and time-consuming. I hate navigating with a mouse because it’s slow, so I always ended up simply typing it all out (I type 140wpm), until I eventually just up custom shortcuts to go straight to it.
  • With Launchy: I press the Launchy keyboard shortcut (Alt-Space), type ‘malevis’ and Launchy’s indexed search immediately selects the file I want. I hit enter, and it opens instantly. Right there I’ve saved time by simplifying a common task.

There’s a tremendous amount of power and customization available in Launchy. You can select which folders to search, what file types to search for within them (i.e., in the ‘textures’ directory it ignores all the material script files and ONLY looks for image files), how many potential results to show at a time, etc.

Another massive time-saver for me is accessing commonly used folders. I simply make a shortcut to the folder, then call it something simple and short to type. For example, let’s say I want to look at Bob Contractor’s submissions folder.

  • Without Launchy: I open an Explorer window and manually navigate to C:workcontractsBob Contractor.
  • With Launchy: I open Launchy with the alt-space shortcut and type ‘art bob’ and press enter.

I have a folder full of shortcuts to all my most commonly accessed applications and folders, with their names written in shorthand so I never have to type much.

One of Launchy’s best features for me is its extremely intelligent handling of partial and incomplete text strings. If I’m looking for HumanMaleVisuals.gc, I can type all sorts of crazy gibberish and STILL have it find the right file. As I was writing this I tried the following; ‘hu ma vi’ – ‘vis’ – ‘man gc’ – ‘man le sal’ – ‘ual’ – ‘male gc’ – ‘nma gc’ – ‘lev gc’ – and ALL of them correctly pointed to the file I wanted. And I have thousands of files indexed with very similar names. It’s also blazingly fast at doing this.

Using Launchy has dramatically decreased the amount of time it takes me to access the huge variety of files I touch at work every day and freed me even more from the shackles of Windows’ default search and means of accessing files and folders. I’d strongly suggest giving Launchy a shot. One of my favorite sites, LifeHacker, has a fantastic article on tweaking Launchy to fit your needs. Check it out!

Who else uses Launchy, or other software like it?

Productivity Tip #9: RocketDock to free you from the Taskbar forever!

I’ve long been frustrated at Windows’ tendency to suck. If some random part of Windows suddenly freezes, EVERY part of Windows is frozen. Sometimes I can’t even access my start menu, or anything on my system tray, or even touch my taskbar because Windows has ground to a halt because a butterfly flapped its wings on the other side of the planet.

I despise convergent and interlinked applications and lately I’ve started getting extremely aggressive about replacing parts of Windows I don’t like with highly specialized tools. In another Productivity Tip of mine, I’ve talked about Launchy to free you from navigating for commonly accessed files and folders through Windows Explorer. In this Productivity Tip, I’m going to talk about RocketDock and how it can replace your QuickLaunch and your Windows taskbar.

My friend Eric talked about RocketDock on his blog and got me interested in it. RocketDock is a FREE, extremely attractive application launcher. Fundamentally it’s a clone of the icon dock that Mac users are already familiar with. Just by itself without any customization, it can completely replace your Quicklaunch bar and look about a hundred times better. It also won’t be affected by Windows Explorer locking up. 🙂 Check out the video below to see EXACTLY how it looks and what it does:

You can launch applications from it, minimize applications to it, and customize it endlessly with all sorts of interesting ‘docklets’, which are custom user-made applications that extends its capabilities. For example, you can add a custom readout of your system information (CPU usage, disk usage, time), a huge variety of clocks, the ability to monitor and check your mail, monitor the weather in your area, the ability to launch your start menu from the dock itself instead of the taskbar, etc.

There’s another commercial dock application called ObjectDock that has years of docklet applications built for it, and fortunately, RocketDock was built to be compatible with all of these docklets. You can check out a huge gallery of docklets here on WinCustomize.com.

I’ve used RocketDock to completely replace my Windows taskbar and my Quicklaunch. All of my most commonly accessed applications are on the dock, I minimize running applications to it (which are thumbnailed, so I can easily see what’s in each minimized app), and I have a clock on it just like before. The entire dock auto-hides so it only pops up when I want it, and it does it MUCH faster than Windows’ default taskbar, and it looks cooler doing it. You can even customize the speed at which it hides and unhides. Also customizable are the icon size, whether or not they zoom when you mouse over them, and exactly where on your screen the dock sits. It’s a hell of a nice thing, and as I said, I’ve totally removed my Windows taskbar.

When everything on my system is minimized, THIS is what my desktop looks like:

I have no desktop icons (because everything I access is either accessible via Launchy or through the icons on the RocketDock) and no taskbar, because I use a program to hide it. When everything is minimized, my PC looks like it’s off.

When I move my mouse up to the top of my screen to bring up the Rocket Dock, this is what I see:

You can see all my commonly accessed icons on the left (Firefox, Notepad, 3DSMAX, Core FTP, Photoshop, Project, Explorer XP, MindManager, AllWays Data Sync, ACDsee, Quicken), my short list of system files and tools (My Documents, RocketDock Settings, Hide Taskbar, Battery Power Meter docklet, and my clock), and off to the right is the thumbnailed minimized applications I have currently open (Firefox, Notepad, 3DSMAX and Photoshop). When I mouse away, it immediately disappears and goes back to my perfectly black desktop.

Everything is very simple, very clean, and very efficient. It’s also not affected by any other part of Windows freezing, or random application freezes, because it is its own separate program, unconnected to anything else. It also looks damned pretty, and you can find lots of kickass high-resolution icons for common applications for it all over the internet. The icons I use can be found here in the gallery of an artist named Deleket.

If you’re wondering how to access the Start menu without a taskbar, you can still use the Windows key to bring it up, or a Start Menu docklet. And the tsakbar is by NO means gone forever if you still want it around! That’s just my personal preference, because fuck Windows. 🙂 Finally, if you’re wondering about your system tray, there’s a docklet available for that, too. All these things have been thought of, and solved.

So, that’s what I do to replace the Windows Taskbar. Has anyone else done something like this?

Productivity Tip #7: Remove window blinks from your IMs with Gaim.

I have accounts with all four major instant messenger protocols. Because I hate each one of their native programs, I use a single program that can log into each of them and keep it into one single interface. This prevents me from having to switch between multiple applications, taking up tons of RAM, and communicating as quickly and efficiently as possible with the people on my contact lists.

There are several applications that group all the IM protocols together, such as Trillian, Miranda IM, and GAIM. To varying degrees, each of these applications minimizes all the extra clutter and maximizes your ability to customize the application for your preferences. They’re all valid options, but of these three I’ve chosen Gaim because of one simple feature:

I can make my IM windows stop blinking!

In every other IM application, your IM windows blink and make a sound every time there’s a new message. This is really irritating and distracting, and pulls me away from my work. I can’t ignore it, because it’s designed to be attention-catching, so I tend to open them just to make them stop blinking, and it disrupts my workflow.

I COULD just turn off IM, but I can’t do that for long because I communicate with my artists through IM, so making the windows not blink keeps them in the background to check at my leisure.

The way to do it in Gaim is this:

Open the Gaim window -> Tools Menu -> Plugins -> WinGaim Options -> Configure Plug-In -> Uncheck ‘Flash window when messages are received.’

In all likelihood, I will never switch from Gaim for this one simple feature. Thank you, Gaim developers. 🙂

Does anyone else have a pet feature they love about software they use?