Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

If This Then That

IFTTT logoThis is a relatively new app that allows you to connect other apps (or “channels”) using a simple programming logic.  It is all controlled by your iPhone.  For example, you can use it to connect WeMo devices, which are wifi-enabled power switches you can set up in your home.

You can also connect various online services like Facebook, Twitter, email, weather, Google, etc. and set up trigger actions.

Cosm logoFor what looks like a more generic, less user-friendly option, there is also Cosm – the new “Internet of Things”.  This allows connections to Arduino, an easy-to-program sensing device that connects to a network.

Email from FileMaker with Thunderbird

If Thunderbird is your email program, when you send email directly from FileMaker, it should open up Thunderbird with the target email address already filled in.

However, after doing a Windows Update, the default email program can be changed to Microsoft Outlook, and then the direct email from FileMaker no longer works.

To fix this problem in Windows XP, open up the Control Panel, and select Internet Options.

Control panel screen shot

Double-click on Internet Properties which should open the following window.  Select the “Programs” tab.

Internet Properties window

Change the selection next to E-mail to “Mozilla Thunderbird” as shown.  Click on the OK button to save the change.

You should now be able to send email directly to Thunderbird from FileMaker.

How to Convert .pages to text or Word

Pages '09 logoOur high school has apparently started using iWorks for documents, and in particular the Pages word processor and layout tool.  We were unable to open a .pages file at home using Microsoft Word and other programs.  A quick search on the internet provided a helpful solution: export the file in Word format from the Pages program.  So that will work next time – but didn’t help for the file on hand.

So the trick is to move the file to a PC, then add .zip on the end of the file name.  Then double click to open the file, and there should be several files, including

  • Thumbnail.jpg
  • Preview.pdf
  • index.xml

These files can then be extracted.  Thumbnail.jpg shows what the document looks like.  Preview.pdf provides the document in Adobe PDF format.  From there, you can simply select the text, then copy and paste it into Word, or any other editing program.

Thanks to Experts Exchange for the tip.

Time Tracking

I finally retired my Access-based time tracking tool, and switched to a new on-line tool called SyncD.  It turns out that it is a New Hampshire product, written by two brothers.  It has most of the features I was looking for:

  • 3 levels of detail: clients, projects, tasks
  • online employee access
  • the ability to enter starting and ending time – this is because I usually enter time at the end of the day, and this helps keep it organized.  Many other time tracking tools only allow you to enter a duration.  This is enough for reporting or billing, but less helpful when checking your time spent against emails in/out, phone logs, etc.
  • easy, intuitive interface
  • optimized, fast data entry

Things I don’t like (but I can live with):

  • no iPhone interface
  • unable to force time to 15-minute increments
  • no approval process – i.e., once a time is approved and or billed, then it can’t be changed

In the process of researching products, I built the following comparison grid:

Time Tracking comparison grid image