Open Source/Freeware & Generally Helpful Links

One thing that I have learned to appreciate is a new toy to make my job easier. A smattering of different programs below have a few things in common: they are easy to use, easy to get, and fit a specific niche. There are also some sites that make finding information (or inspiration) faster.

HTML & Web Development

  • TopStyle – TopStyle is a nifty little CSS editor. The Lite version has some basic validation for different types of web browsers (very helpful) and a complete list of available attributes.
  • Microsoft FrontPage – It has kind of a bad rap, but FrontPage is still my favorite HTML editor. I love the split-screen editing mode; and it has a lot of tools from spell checking to JavaScripting. And it is really easy to use right off the bat, which is my primary criteria for software.
  • Microsoft Visual Web Developer  – Really great tool (and free!) for creating and editing ASP.NET sites. This is a little less user friendly than FrontPage, which is a (minor) drawback, but it simplifies database integration and a few other operations, which makes up for that.
  • Mambo (Help) – Content management systems are a big trend because of how easy they are for end-users to use, but it can be a bear learning how to create and manage templates. This made it a little easier for me.
  • Mambo Love  – This is a collection of designs for Mambo, but it's just a great resource for some funky, innovative web designs.
  • iStock Photo – Very inexpensive stock photography, clip art, and videos with an impressively precise search feature.
  • CSS Zen Garden – Another great design site, specifically for graphic designers and focusing on exclusively CSS layout. There are some visually intoxicating designs on that site.

Text Layout

  • (Sun) OpenOffice It's a good alternative to Adobe FrameMaker, which is still the gold standard for manual layouts. OpenOffice handles large documents very well, and I like the master doc concept, a carryover from Frame. Sometimes table and figure numbering is buggy, and it crashes more than I like, but it is free and, overall, its virtues outweigh its problems.
  • Corel WordPerfect I still like WordPerfect for most of my regular work. One thing it handles better than Word or OO (in my opinion) is booklet layout, which is really nice for small manuals and users guides. Another new tool, Corel WordPerfect Lightning, has a lightweight document and PDF viewer which collects documents together, combined with a note-taking feature.
  • Dictionary.com Single source for dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia which makes finding the right word much faster and simpler.

Graphic Design

  • CorelDRAW  This is the single easiest to use program I have ever tried out of the box. I love it; it is incredibly simple, has great help and documentation, and is very polished.
  • Gimp PhotoShop "lite," which fits my needs closely and has the benefit of being free. I am a "production designer" (re: not a graphic designer or  artist), so Gimp is perfect for me  as much functionality as I can use, simple interface (big plus), dependable program.
  • Inkscape Inkscape makes very graceful scalable vector graphics and has a lot of functionality while being very stable and easy to use (and free). It's not a layout program like CorelDRAW and was a little slower for me to learn, but it's great for basic design.
  • Dia A free, open source version of Visio. DIA is pretty simple to use and exports to number of different formats and is great for more structured charts or graphics.

Uncategorized Helpful Programs

  • FreeMind This is a brainstorming program, for idea associations and project planning.
  • Wink Wink is a screen-capture tool which makes it incredibly easy to make tutorials with notes, audio, and video.
  • Fedora Directory Server Related to one of my previous projects, Fedora DS is an LDAP directory server.
  • Gaim This keeps all of your instant messaging accounts in one place; I use it for Yahoo, Windows Messenger, AOL, IRC, and Jabber.
  • CutePDF Writer A free PDF printer so that you can print any file to PDF.
  • ZipGenius Creates and opens compressed archives in a number of different formats.
  • WinMerge Diffs files in a very simple interface. I've used it on very large files (over 20,000 lines), and it handled it great.
  • ToDoList XML-based marker board that sets up to-do lists with associated  categories, deadlines, time estimates, priorities, and notes.