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Soft As It Gets Recommended Software Tools

As a service to you we have put together a list of tools which we have found to be very useful in our development environment and feel that many of our customers will likewise find them of value.

We expect this list to evolve and welcome suggestions about your favourite tools (beside ED of course!).

Our recommendations

 

Demo Builder by doubleT Inc.
I've spent quite a bit of time recently researching and evaluating programs to record software demo's, so that I can make some Quick Tours of our new product Surfulater. I looked at a range of products including TurboDemo, Camtasia Studio, DemoCharge, Instant Demo, Viewlet Cam and more. Suffice to say I was surprised and disappointed in what I found. Some crashed, others were hard to use or simply didn't provide the features I required. 

When I was close to giving up I found Demo Builder (DB) and was impressed from the very start. It has a fresh look and was the easiest to use of the programs I looked at. Its recording capabilities are quite good and its editing features are very good. There is a thumbnail view so you can easily locate any frame and a timeline which gives good control over the various objects DB supports. These include balloon callouts, animated text, notes, images, cursors etc. In addition there are effects such as fade in and out, fly in etc. which can add a nice extra zing to your demos.

I have found some annoyances such as no recognition of dual monitor setups, and UI issues which hamper productivity a bit. But these aside DB is the easily the best in its class as far as I'm concerned. The Surfulater movies will be available shortly and will show you what I've achieved in a reasonably short amount of time. For more information and a free trial visit the Demo Builder web site. 

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DBxtra by Quanticus S.A. de C.V.

DBxtra is a stand alone reporting and query tool that connects to unlimited databases, including Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, FoxPro, Excel and almost any other database through ODBC.

No programming or database knowledge is required to explore and report your data in our user-friendly environment.

Visit the DBxtra web site for more information.

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Group Mail by infacta ltd.
Newsletters are a great way to keep in touch with your customers, and in the Internet age the obvious means of delivery is email. 

There are various ways to manage and deliver emails to large groups of people. Web server based programs are quite common, but are often lacking in capabilities, such as sending HTML content, verifying email address, delivering batches of emails so you can stagger delivery, and tracking who has been sent what.

During our recent research trip into bulk email applications we were fortunate enough to stumble across Group Mail, which is a Windows application which doesn't suffer from the drawbacks outlined above. It was by far the most comprehensive bulk email application we were able to find, and is also reasonably easy to use and well priced.

Group Mail comes in three flavours, including a free version with a limited recipient list size, which is more than adequate to give you a good feel for the product. As you move up the ladder you get the ability to use different sending techniques, which can considerably speed up the delivery of large numbers of emails, plus a range of very useful add-ins. 

Group Mail add-ins deliver extra functionality such as Merging lists of recipients, Email address verification, Subscriber list management etc. And these are all free with the Pro product.

If you've registered on our Forums and said yes to receive email, then you'll be receiving information about ED from us via. Group Mail. To get more information and put it through its paces go and visit the Group Mail Web site.

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Winspector by GipsySoft
When you need to delve inside a Window and get the low-down on its Properties and see what Messages it is receiving and sending, you usually open up Microsoft Spy++. Well now there is a new kid on the block. Winspector is a drop in replacement for Spy++ with a much better user interface, and a host of features not found in Spy++. For example you can see the properties of multiple windows at once, hide specific windows or messages, pause the message display while still capturing messages and lots more. 

Winspector hasn't been out long and is going through a rapid development phase, so problems are fixed quickly and if you request a new feature, it might just see the light of day. And if that's not enough to pike your interest, this will be - Winspector is free. So go and download a copy from www.gipsysoft.com/articles/winspector now.

There is one final thing I have to tell you about. Russ Freeman, the guy behind Winspector has an excellent HTML control called QHTM. If you want to display HTML in your applications, this is the way to go. See www.gipsysoft.com/qhtm/index.shtml  for more information.

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BackupXPress Pro by Xpert-Design
There are lots of backup programs around, probably too many, however finding one that meets your specific needs isn't always easy. I don't know about you but I'm fanatical about backups. The thought of loosing even a few hours work on ED is not one I like to consider. I use a combination of backup techniques; backups to other machines, to CD's, Zip disks and daily off-site backups. For some time now I've relied on BackupXpress Pro for these tasks. In a nutshell the things I like about this product are; easy to configure to meet my reasonably complex requirements, flexible backup target devices, the ability to use strong encryption on backups and the ability to email or FTP the backup to a remote site.  A Trial Version can be downloaded from http://www.xpertdesign.de/english/

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The Bat! - RITLABS
If you've visited here before you'll know I've been a big fan of the Calypso email client for a long time. Well sadly Calypso is no more and the time has come to find a replacement, which will be no easy feat.

After much searching, talking and evaluating I've settled on The Bat by RITLABS. This is easily the most full featured email client I've seen; you name it, it does it. Not only that but it has some impressive features I haven't seen elsewhere.

For example I regularly switch between using my Notebook and my Desktop PC when working with my email. As you can image I have a lot of email to manage and my email database is currently over 350MBytes. Over a 10M LAN copying this back and forth is painful to say the least. The Bat has the ability to synchronize email on multiple machines, which makes this chore so much easier. It can also work as mail server for machines that don't have a direct internet connection. 

The Bat handles multiple accounts, HTML email, threaded views, has good message management capabilities, powerful filtering, impressive templates (which handle signatures and more), the ability to work as list server, PGP support, tons of configuration options, is multithreaded, etc.etc.

There are areas I'd like to see improved in the User Interface, which would make it easier to use, and the Help needs more work, but I'm sure the developers are aware of this it will continue to steadily improve.

The Bat Free Trial is available at http://www.ritlabs.com/the_bat/index.html

The bottom line: Highly Recommended

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Pitrinec Software, WinSchedular
I've spent a bit of time recently looking for a package to help me automate some of the tedious and mundane tasks I need to do, and do and do... Even simple things like routinely deleting groups of temporary files had become a time wasting distraction. I wanted a program with a short learning curve, yet powerful enough to automate reasonably complex tasks. I found a few interesting applications. I contacted the company behind one of the products which was novel and I thought had potential. I never heard back, which unfortunately seems a not uncommon experience on the Web. I must say I seriously question why many Web sites exist, but that's another issue entirely. In the end the product which best suited my needs was WinScheduler by Pitrinec Software. This is one of those programs which I liked from the word go. It has a straightforward user interface and it took me no time at all to set up some macros to do what I wanted and then schedule them to run at appropriate times. 

Creating a macro is easy, and there is a wide range of commands you can choose from like file delete/copy/move, starting applications,  FTP'ing files, opening URLs, moving the mouse, sending keystrokes and lots more. You can add in flow control statements, wait on timers and access variables. This is all done by choosing commands from a tree, so you don't have to learn a new scripting language. In the unlikely event that you need even more power the Advanced Scripting version lets you use Basic, VB and Java Script. A flexible Project Tree lets you define and group your macros, and you can even use WinScheduler to remind you about important dates.

WinScheduler can be purchased stand-alone or part of a even more powerful suite of tools called ToolWorks, which includes Perfect Keyboard, ClickyMouse and ToolbarPro. If you need a tool to help automate your life a little, then download a free trial and evaluate it for yourself.

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Electric Software, Inc. Glowcode
I'm sure you all know the old adage about the last 10% of a project taking 90% of the time. Well here is a great tool that may well help turn the tide a little in your favour.

At the tail end of a project problems often fall into categories like finding resource leaks, locating performance bottlenecks and ensuring all the code has been tested.

It is in these all important and often difficult areas that Glowcode's impressive diagnostic capabilties may prove to be a lifesaver.

Glowcode seamlessly attaches itself to your C++ or VB application and delivers a wealth of impressive and incredibly useful information. Using Glowcode's Profiler on ED4W V4 we were able to quickly pinpoint a number of areas where performance was lacking and could easily be improved. We'd also been trying to find a resource leak for some time with other tools without success, but Glowcode identified the problem area straight away.

If you're looking for a tool to help iron out pesky wrinkles in your application then I strongly recommend you give Glowcode a try. You can download a free evaluation copy from www.glowcode.com Two quick caveats; 1) I've only used it with C++ and 2) it only runs on NT.

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HEXpert by Mathew Woolsey
Over the years we've been developing ED for Windows we've had a number of requests to provide a Hex editing capability. Well to be honest this has never been a very high priority for us, particularly when there are programs around especially designed to perform this task, and at very reasonable prices. The one I recommend you try is HEXpert. It comes in 16 and 32 bit versions and can edit files as large as 16Mbytes. A Trial Version can be downloaded from http://www.hexpertsystems.com/products.html

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What's your opinion?

So what do you think of this area of our Web, or any other area for that matter? Or maybe you'd like to comment on the programs I've listed. Drop me an email to edsupport@getsoft.com and let me know. And by the way don't forget to let us know about your favourite tools.

enjoy,
Neville

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