Cool software (pt 1)

As you go about your surfing business, you inevitably come across various utilities and applications that you just find invaluable. Some are fully fledged multipurpose applications, others small programs that exist to do one thing only.

Here I present a selection of those that I have been finding useful recently.

Troynt’s Twitter script

This is not so much a separate program but a script that provides a number of very useful features to the basic twitter.com page. It is a Greasemonkey script, meaning you must first install the Greasemonkey add-on for Firefox in order to use it. Once installed it adds features such as: automatic inline threaded conversations, retweet buttons, automatic pagination (loads the next page of tweets when you scroll to the bottom), grouping of contacts, inline display of pictures and video links. All of this makes it invaluable, although there are more features as well – see the scripts homepage for more details.

Twitter search on Google

This is another Greasemonkey script. It simply displays the latest 5 search results from the Twitter stream at the top of any Google search. Handy as sometimes the Twitter population is ahead of the game.

OCR Terminal

This is an online service that provide OCR (optical character recognition) services. What’s so special about that? Most people who have a scanner would have some free software built in. Well that may be true, but I don’t and others may be in the same position. Most people don’t need to do a lot of OCR and for the occasional job this is perfect. You simply register to create an account and then you can upload up to 30 pages per month in most common formats (jpeg, tiff etc) to the site, and it will then turn it into Word DOC format (or some other formats like rtf, xml) and give you a link to download it. You can pay to have a bigger monthly allowance. When I have tried it I have found it to be remarkably accurate even with poor quality scans.

iPlayer downloader

This handy program down what it says on the tin. It allows you to download programmes from the BBC’s iPlayer site and save them on your computer. The iPlayer site already allows downloading of certain programmes, but these are only available to watch for a certain time after download and then they expire. Also they are DRM protected so cannot be transferred to another portable device. iPlayer downloader takes advantage of the Beeb providing non-DRMd h.264 streams intended for iPhone streaming. It hijacks these streams and saves them. Since it is dependent on which shows the BBC decides to provide to the iPhone it may not cover the particular programme you want to download, but the range is quite broad. The quality is not exceptional, but for viewing on a portable device (anything that plays h.264) it is quite acceptable.

Videora iPhone converter

Say you “acquired” some video files from somewhere on the internet and wish to view them on your iPhone. This is the program for you. It will take most commonly available file formats and convert it to .mov format that Apple’s devices like. It will even work for VOB files ripped ripped from a DVD if you can get rid of the DRM (other software required). You get a number of options such as  output resolution, sound quality, speed of conversion etc, and a nice touch is a “beginners” mode that makes the whole process as easy as pie, with a visual guide to each step.

OK, that’s it for now. I’ve a few more useful programs to tell you about but they will have to wait til next time…

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