Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


A few useful tools

It's been a while since I highlighted some tools here, so how about it?

Mp3cutter (any platform) - free


The iPhone is a bit of a pain when it comes to creating free ringtones from songs you already own (seems they want you to pay, and pay, and pay...) but if you're using just about any other smartphone, you can use any .mp3 file for a ringtone. The challenge is getting just the right portion of the .mp3 file so that it sounds as awesome as you want it to be.   

The answer? the online tool "mp3cutter"  which provides a web interface to clip your .mp3's down to just that part you want to hear when someone special calls. It's pretty straight forward, and very much free. One note: it seemed temperamental when using it with Safari, but seems to work fine with Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Go through the editing and cutting process, save it to your local computer, copy it to your phone, and you're in business.

Fresh (Mac) - free to try, $9 to buy (and worth every penny)

Fresh is a cool app. It sits unobtrusively at the edge of your Mac OS X desktop as a gray tab. It's job is to hang on to recently accessed files for you, as well as things you'd like to have available for immediate access.

When you click on the tab, Fresh extends out into the desktop (screenshot below) and has two main panels


"Fresh Files" (the top one) - this is a list of the most recently opened or accessed files. It's very handy when you realize you just closed something you weren't finished with. You can not only open the files, you can right click on them and take other actions. Pretty handy. And if there is a type of file you never want to see there (like temp files or your iTunes database), you right click and tell it to stop showing you that file (or that type of file). Pretty slick.

"The Cooler" (the bottom one) - this is a list of files you've selected. You drag files, folders, etc. there and it hangs on to them so you can get to them quickly. You can drag them from Finder, the Desktop, or even from the Fresh Files pane and they stay there til you remove them. This is handy for keeping things that you want to get to in a couple of clicks - such as your "stock" presentations, files or folders related to your current projects, etc.

This was the surprise hit of the spring for me and has saved me more time than I'd have imagined.

Fences (Windows) - free basic version, Pro version for $9.99


On my Windows system, I've developed a nasty habit of putting things I want to get to quickly on my desktop. That means a messy Windows desktop. When I discovered Fences, I loved it immediately. I actually have Fences Pro, and I think it's worth the $10 - at least for me.

What does Fences do? It helps you organize the icons and shortcuts on your desktop. You create "Fences" which are little corrals that icons live in. You can show or hide each Fence, which allows you to hide icons you don't care about at one moment, but bring them back instantaneously when you need them again.

My favorite feature is the "Quick Hide" capability. By double-clicking on a clear area of the desktop, you automatically hide all the icons on your desktop so you can instantly clean up before a presentation, a demo, or when you just want to focus.

What's that you say? There are a few icons you don't want to hide? Easy. Just right-click the icon when it's visible, click "Exclude from auto-hide" and that icon will stick around when you hide everything else. It may not sound like much, but try this for a day and you'll be hooked.

The Pro feature has an additional function I really like - you can set a default Fence for new icons. For example, I created a fence for documents that automatically "collects" any .doc, .docx, .pdf, and .xps file that I save to my desktop. Snazzy.