Buy.com There must be a kajillion Internet Stores out there selling technology of various kinds. I lean toward Buy.com because, in addition to the enormous variety of technology products (hardware, software, media, accessories, etc) they have available, they also have links to other sources, which makes Buy.com a great research tool. So, if pawing through shelf stock at your local big technology store and talking to sales people who either know nothing or else can’t explain in plain English what they DO know is not your idea of a good time, I encourage you to click in to Buy.com. Email me with your impressions. Oh! And don’t forget to check their “Clearance” pages.
MWSnap This is one of those tools that falls into the category of “I don’t know how I got along without it,” and -its free! Capture all or any part of a screen to paste elsewhere or save under various graphics formats. The color picker records a swatch of the target color as well as its code. Download your free copy at author’s website: www.mirekw.com
Serif offers a stable of products covering the waterfront of desktop and web publishing. These include:
PagePlus – A frames-based full-featured desktop publishing tool that will produce commercial grade output, and web pages, too.
PhotoPlus – Image Editor with Photoshop capabilities (but not the price).
WebPlus – Easy-to-use web design tool lets you put your creative side to work quickly. Does not offer the functionality features of other tools (for example, it doesn’t do data collection forms such as user feedback or product ordering) but the layout and design features are actually more abundant than in some more expensive software. The documentation is superb and teaches you much of what you need to know about how web sites work. You could also use it to design pages and then send them on to me for integration into your web site. Nifty.
DrawPlus – Vector based drawing tool with complete set of effects.
Misc – Too many to mention.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of all the programs is the comprehensive and comprehensible help system. Boxed versions also come with “Resource CD’s” and paper manuals. Quark and Adobe users will be surprised, I think, at the capabilities and ease of use and find it hard to justify the cost of the big-name products when Serif is available for little or nothing. I use all their products and have found nothing I could do with PhotoShop, Illustrator or Quark that I can’t do with Serif.
Did I say little or NOTHING?
No kidding. Previous releases are given away at www.freeserifsoftware.com. If you like what you see, you can upgrade to the current version. Click this Current Serif Products Link to review what’s available and place your order.
Support? Yep, by phone with a reasonably quick pick-up, too.
Software995 makes and/or markets a TON of very useful software which you may have, in most cases, for nothing. But, if you pay $9.95, you’ll stop the “nag” popup that reminds you that you can pay $9.95 to make the nag go away and get tech support (via email). That said, the nag’s not so bad and the software is pretty nifty. I strongly suggest you visit the website and immerse yourself (and I do mean, “immerse”) in what they have. Here, I refer only to 3 of their many offerings.
PDF995 To make a PDF file, just “Print to” this puppy, enter a file name and there you go. The free version pops up the vendor’s website where a message reminds you that for the low price of just $9.95 you can put a stop to that irritation and get tech support (via email). However, it’s so benign I haven’t done so yet. No malware, adware, spyware or any of that. Actually, much as I’ve used it, I think I’ll pay the ten bucks. The “Suite” version adds other capabilties.
OpenOffice995 is not really a product original to Software995; its their version of “Open Office” which was (and is still being) ginned up by a “community” of developers supported mainly by Sun Microsystems. Cutting to the chase, what we have here is the functional equivalent of the Microsoft Office Suite -really, we do- without the logo, and totally without the price. This product shows up through various vendors who are free to distribute it and charge what they want. For their version. the Software995 folks want -you guessed it, $9.95- to dump the reminder popup screen and give you email support. Because the software reads from and writes to everything, you could toss out Msoft Office and use this instead and hardly notice the change. I have used the Open Office products. Solid.
OmniForm I’ve never found anything this can’t convert to something else: text, graphics, whatever. Better than that, it’s designed for production. Just drop as many files as you want into the program and it spits them out into the target file type you wanted. Free or pay $9.95 to get rid of the nag screen.
Vendor web site www.software995.com
LunarPages We believe LunarPages offers one of the best combinations of system capabilities, support and price to be found anywhere. Special note to business customers of BNSI.net in Albermarle County, VA: If you have the business package combining DSL access with web hosting, there is no need to change; you’ve got a great combo deal. Otherwise, if you have not yet seen the pages on this site that discuss hosting, domain names and LunarPages, click here.
Packetel Fax receives faxes for you then sends them on to 1 or 2 email addresses you specify. Use it instead of your fax machine to receive faxes. This deceptively simple tool can potentially save you a great deal of money while streamlining your office operations and adding high assurance that you will get your faxes no matter where you are.
The most obvious and immediate savings is in the monthly cost of a phone line and the consumables: paper, ink (toner) and other consumables used by the physical fax machine. Possibly you can eliminate the machine entirely by using your computer to send faxes instead (the capability is built into late editions of Windows). In my office, I send using the simple Windows “Print to fax” and I receive through Packetel. The reason this works for me is that practically every document I would put in a fax machine is already in my computer; it is faster and cheaper and more convenient to “print to fax” than it would be to print to paper, then go over to the machine and then send out the fax then toss out the paper. There are some documents that exist as paper files only: these I scan into the computer and then fax out. If you have a great many paper-only documents outside the computer, scanning them is probably more trouble than it’s worth (See Paperport, below, for solving THAT problem) so you could still use the fax machine for sending them (but you can still drop the dedicated fax line).
How it Works: Packetel issues a fax number to you; you give it out to people as your fax number. You may receive an unlimited number of pages at no extra charge. When someone sends you a fax, it goes to your fax number. Packetel answers and converts the incoming fax to a graphic file. The file is attached to an email which is sent to 1 or 2 email addresses you specify. The conversion and email happens almost instantly. When you receive the email, the subject line will show the number of the sending fax machine. Open and click on the attachment the same as you would any other. It opens in your Windows viewer just like any other picture. Review, toss it, save it, print it…whatever. BONUS: If the material is text you need to copy into a document, use the Windows built-in imaging program to convert it to text and pipeline it to WORD. Send yourself a fax to test it.
Fax Number: Packetel has a limited range of area codes to which your fax number may be assigned (you pick the area code you want from a list). The fact that the number you select may be “long distance” for the sender probably is not crucial, because long distance has become very cheap over the past few years, and because for many, even your local number may be long distance anyway.
Email Addresses: Why receive at 2 email addresses? You might, for example want one copy to go to your internal office email address and the other to a public email server like Yahoo or Hot Mail. This would let you get to the fax from any computer anywhere without having to login to your office email -a problem if the office server is “down,” especially.
Doing the numbers: Compare $3.95 per month -your ONLY cost for Packetel, to $20.00 per month for a dedicated fax line. It pays for itself the first month you use it. If you still need a fax machine to send, simply attach it to a regular phone line; after all, it only needs the line to send, so a dedicated line is not necessary. Now add in saved toner, paper, employee time, YOUR time, etc.
Reliability: Packetel has never failed to relay my faxes promptly and there is no limit to the number of pages you can receive.
Click the image above to learn more and get started. This is a can’t lose proposition that has been a great time and money saver here at EZBiz!
PaperPort The gold standard of convenient, easy to learn, inexpensive document management software. I speak from experience. Your computer is chock full of documents; the problem is that they are of various formats and not compatible with one another. PaperPort solves the problem by giving you a single interface to look at and organize all of them and even combine different formats simply by stacking one onto the other. An Excel spreadsheet, PDF file and web page can be put together as a single document and all converted into a PDF file, for example, simply by dragging and dropping one document onto another. Documents are easy to recognize because they appear as thumbnails, and may be opened in their native formats from within Paperport. But wait, there’s more: use your scanner to bring documents in from the outside world. No scanner? Scansoft -maker of Paperport- has what you need. But wait, there’s still more. Use built in OCR to recognize text in your scanned documents and convert it into editable text for WORD or other word processing programs. Click this link to learn more and/or purchase: Easily organize, Find and Share all your documents – Buy PaperPort from ScanSoft.
OmniPage The gold standard of OCR (Optical Character Recognition). I speak from experience. OCR -the ability to recognize characters of text and retype them into a word processing document- is now so commonplace that the facility comes with Windows as part of the operating system. And, if all you ever did was scan documents that run from left to right and down the page (like this page) -and are reasonably clean and straight- that might be enough. But what happens when you are given a list of names and addresses, three across and ten down the page? And suppose that some addresses are 3 lines deep, and others 4 lines? Or suppose you are scanning magazine text which is in 2 columns in the top half and 3 columns in the bottom with photos here and there in the text? In that case, recognizing characters is not enough. Plain vanilla OCR will simply read across left to right, rendering output which may be accurate as to the words of text, but impossible to use because the original formatting is lost.
That’s when you need not just character recognition, but format recognition as well, so the processed output can be pipelined into spreadsheet, database or word processing source files for mail merge. That’s the work of OmniPage. In its original rendition ten years ago, the software cost upwards of $300 and was worth it. Today, at under $150.00, it is the essential tool for production scale extraction of usable data from text. The software is smart enough to know when it is not smart enough to detect a format, and will therefore allow you to train it. Let us suppose, for example, that you want to pick up contributor data contained on pages copied from a membership roster. You notice that the copies still show light grey bars running left-to-right whose purpose was to help visually separate one set of names and addresses from another -good for people but bad for OCR engines. And you also see that the original data came from bound pages in a member directory because data from the original left page is lined up along the left edge and data from the right page is lined up along the right and there is an uneven black line down the middle -the shadow from the “gutter” between the pages. And you have 50 pages of that stuff to be entered into a spreadsheet! Teach OmniPage the format by scanning a sample page and drawing rectangles around the places where the data is actually located…and avoiding entirely the shadow in the middle. Now pile the source documents in the scanner’s document feeder, tell OmniPage to put the results on a spreadsheet and run the batch. In about 5 minutes, the job is done. Oh, and by the way, OmniPage can remember this job for next time. Click the graphic below to learn more and/or purchase direct from the manufacturer.
Stamps.com: This company is a darling of Wall Street -and for very good reason. They have come up with a promotion method that is actually, truly, unique. The fact that you can print postage from your PC is reason enough to recommend Stamps.com. It is convenient, cheap and ready when you are. And, no matter how much you rely on email or the phone, you still send letters through the mail. But suppose you could design the stamp itself? Now you’ve got something! Click the links to learn more: With PhotoStamps you can turn your own digital photos into real US postage! Create yours today. Highly recommended.
Xerox Printer: To the best of my knowledge, no one -I mean absolutely NO BODY- offers a program like this. The deal is that you agree to print a certain number of pages per month (or more) and to buy your printer supplies (toner, etc.) from the manufacturer (Xerox). Do this for 3 years, and the printer is yours, period. That’s it! Xerox is looking for customers who print from 2 to 4 thousand pages a month. If you think that’s way more than you print, think again. Having sold a great many printers in my career, I can tell you that, for an office of 4 or more people, this is not a tough number to crack. Do you send color work “out” to be printed (brochures, newsletters, etc)? This is the economical choice if you have only an ink jet printer in the office, because the cost-per-page for inkjets is quite high -especially for color pages. The cost-per-page for a laser color printer, on the other hand, is much lower, but the machine itself is expensive. What Xerox offers is a way to actually amortize the expense of a quality color printer based on pages printed, and over a 3 year period. Pay-as-you-go. Makes sense if the printer is decent…
Which leads me to the printer; the incomparable Xerox 8550 PHASER. As a former (I’m “retired” now) authorized Xerox dealer and warranty service center, I have used and sold this printer. Instead of toner dust or liquid ink, this puppy uses blocks of wax saturated with pigment. The blocks are shaped so that they will only fit in the correct place for them when you need to add color. And what’s more, they are edible. Yes, you can eat them! They are not very nutritional, and I don’t recommend them as food, but they are non-toxic. This is why the Phaser is a main-stay printer in educational systems across the country -talk about a demanding print environment- if the kids gnaw on the ink block, it won’t hurt ’em! The output is clear, sharp, saturated. And the output is fast: first page hits in 5 seconds! This is a network printer designed for workgroups, so anybody can print to it. The web site has all the particulars, in detail.
The phaser printer technology was developed originally by Tektronix, which was purchased by Xerox. Tektronix was, for years, the gold standard of color printing and had a lock on color proofing work in design studios everywhere. Good as it was, Phasers occupied a “niche” market until purchased by Xerox who has taken them mainstream.
Who needs this printer? While it will work well reproducing black text on white paper, it really shines as a “one-off” machine for organizations that need to impress people with color. Real Estate companies, insurance agencies, educational enterprises or anyone who needs to show a product or communicate an idea in color are the main beneficiaries of phaser print technology. The beauty is that you print only as many impressions as you need, only when you need them. Cost per page? Way LESS than an inkjet.
But, enough. Click the link below to learn about the printer and about the program. You will be impressed by the product and assured by the company who presents it and backs it up.
Skype (Yipe!): The world is overflowing with internet long distance calling plans -here’s one that actually makes sense. I say that it makes sense for several reasons:
You don’t need “broadband.” Any connection speed of 34KB or higher will do. Most dial up modems can run at 56KB so, unless you have a really S…L…O…W connection, you’ll be able to use Skype.
- The equipment is cheap. The phone works over your computer’s USB port -just plug it in. Or use an adapter with your regular phone. Buy from Skype, buy from anyone. USB is USB. Either way, under $50. Or, if you already have a microphone and head set, use them.
- The calling procedure is one you already know: just pick up the phone and dial to place a call or to receive one. With Skype, you get an ordinary phone number you can give out to people.
- Call quality is excellent. Skype has spent a lot of money to produce what are actually “hi-fi quality” calls. Having said that, if you use a satellite link to access the internet, you may experience some stuttering.
- The price is right: pay nothing at all for calls to and from other Skype users. How many are there? Well, the software has been downloaded about 164 million times, so I would guess there are quite a few. The fact that the service is free means you can try it out to see if works for you.
- The software has a tiny footprint and shouldn’t take over your computer. Download it for free.
What about calls going out from you to non-Skype users? To numbers in the USA, you pay about 2 1/2 cents per minute. Cheap. Use “SkypeOut.” How? Buy minutes in advance on your credit card, recharge as needed. Minutes last for 180 days.
What about calls coming in from non-Skypers? Use “SkypeIn.” Your callers will pay whatever they would pay anyway. YOU pay about $6 per month. What this means is that your long distance calling plan (in the US) is going to cost you about $6 a month plus toll charge of roughly a buck-fifty an hour for non-Skype calls. Now, obviously, if there are certain numbers you call often, you want those callers to get Skype for themselves because that way, the calls are FREE to both of you!
Who needs this? People or organizations who use a lot of long distance to the same numbers. If both sides of the call get Skype, no one pays nuthin’! Otherwise, if you just have a lot of long distance to various numbers at conventional phones, SkypeOut may make sense. SkypeIn, aside from giving in-bound callers a cheaper rate, simply gives you the convenience of answering just one phone for all in-bound calls.
Downsides: There are basically 2. First of all, your computer needs to be up and running for Skype to work, obviously. Second of all, there is NO 911 available on Skype.
I look at Skype not so much as a replacement for my phone service but rather as an enhancement to it and a way to reduce the over-all cost of calling. Go to the web site and see for yourself. At the site you will also learn why (in Skype’s opinion) their way is better than alternative internet based calling services; what they say makes sense. Try the free version; if it works (which is nearly certain) consider SkypeOut. Now click:
40 West Studios When it comes to web sites, my orientation is bricks-and-mortar, small to mid-size businesses and organizations who want to get on the Internet highway quickly and at low cost. As you can see from the material here, I also offer allied products and services to make the whole thing work together and give you a sole source. But let’s say you are a major enterprise with very demanding web site specifications, or that you are a “virtual” enterprise that relies entirely on the ‘net for your commerce or other activity. But you still want a vendor who has some appreciation for budget, comprehensive service (web, print, multimedia, etc) AND you still want personal service. In that case, you want 40 West Studios. This agency has a stable of talent who have serviced some of the largest and most well known corporate accounts in the country -as well as smaller organizations whose web presence can only be described as a “class-act.” As a matter of fact, I refer to 40 West when I can no longer properly handle the needs of my own customers. It is a referral I make with utter confidence that my customer’s reputation (and mine) will only be enhanced by it. That said, have a look now at their web site: click here.
The Complete Directory for Internet Requirements So, how do really KNOW what’s “out there” to help you build, implement and promote your website? You go to an authoritative directory, that’s how. This free site is an exhaustive and continuously updated reference. Click this link: Best Web Providers Directory