Productivity boosting tools: a re-look

February 27, 2011 11:41 pm | Updated May 27, 2011 04:17 pm IST

Several tools meant for making our digital life hassle-free are in place. This edition of NetSpeak takes yet another look at some of them.

One of the positive side effects of the integration of Net with daily life is the access to numerous tools and services that help accomplish many of our routine tasks with ease. Tens of hundreds of on-line and desktop applications are being released almost on a daily basis. However, we may not be able to benefit from these productivity-enhancing tools unless we closely monitor the developments in this realm.

To help users easily find/access the relevant tools/services, a variety of app-stores are coming up. These stores act as a platform where the stakeholders (users and developers) can easily interact and distribute their products. The Chrome webstore, discussed in this column a few weeks ago ( ) is an instance of such a store. As mentioned earlier, the Chrome webstore helps us easily find/access different on-line applications being developed across the Web.

Besides on-line applications, the desktop application front is also abuzz with action and is evolving constantly. It is certainly ideal to have an app store kind of set-up for desktop applications too. If you are on the lookout for such a solution for Windows applications, take a look at the service ‘Allmy apps' ( ), designed to facilitate Windows users find/install applications of their choice. To avail of the service, one need to create an account (free) and install its client software.

Once the client software is live on your machine, it lists out all the programs available on its database under different categories such as web, communication, security, utilities and so on. Select the appropriate software and install it.

Yet another program that can be used for easily managing Windows programs is the free software Npackd ( ). Like other package managers, this tool also allows a user to discover/install/update/uninstall different Windows packages/utilities. Currently more than 400 programs can be managed through this software.

Simple diagram tool

While preparing a presentation, it is likely that one need to use diagrams illustrating certain concepts or content flow.

On such occasions, try out the software ‘Simple diagrams' ( ). The software offers all the necessary tools required for creating pictures with ease. Aside the usual drawing tools, the software also provides a large collection of pictures of common entities that can be adopted in diagrams. In addition, the program allows to save the diagram as a PNG file.

Voice search

Searching the Net has become a regular feature of our daily schedule. Rather than searching with text keywords entered via keyboard, would you like to search by speaking through your computer's microphone? If you think this could boost your productivity, install the Chrome extension ‘Voice search' available at: . Once installed, you will find a microphone icon on the browser's toolbar. By clicking on this icon you can select the appropriate search engine and start search using voice inputs. To make this extension work, you need to load Chrome with an option, described clearly in the web page mentioned above.

Table scraper

We come across a variety of data tables on different web pages. One issue with such tables is that one cannot simply copy them and use it for further processing (say with a spreadsheet software). As mentioned in the past, browser extensions like TableTools ( ) or TableCapture ( ) could help you get around this trouble spot. In this regard, you may find the Chrome extension ‘Scraper' ( ) more enjoyable and efficient to use. To use this extension, load the page with data tables, select the columns from the relevant table and right-click on this selection. Now, select the option ‘Scrape similar…' from the menu that pops-up and then the extension will display the table content. Select the required columns and take the data to your ‘Google Docs' spreadsheet using the ‘Export to Google Docs' option.

Video lectures

It is common knowledge that all aspects of our life have already been invaded by IT. Given all the IT-based systems being powered by computer programs, it is always desirable to possess basic programming skills. If you heed to this observation and wish to know more about the basics of computer science/programming, the video lecture series on computer science and programming from MIT OpenCourseware ( ) might fetch you rich dividends.

Google art project

Those who love art works and fond of visiting art museums may enjoy Google Art Project ( ) that brings world-class art works on your fingertips. This awesome project lets one to take virtual tour of several famous art museums across the world.

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