Mike Williams

Create and share concept maps online with CmapTools

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CmapTools is a free cross-platform application (Windows, OS X, iPad) for creating and sharing concept maps, structured diagrams which represent various concepts and show how they’re linked.

Essentially they’re a simple type of mind map which can help you with anything from brainstorming new ideas to teaching knowledge models to others. And if that still doesn’t help -- or you’d just like to see one yourself -- then CmapTools has a concept map about itself which you can view here.

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Microsoft Office 2016 Public Preview now available

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Microsoft has announced the release of Microsoft Office 2016 Public Preview for Windows 7 and later.

The build is free for everyone to try out, no Office 365 subscription required. Although beware, there is one potential complication: the preview won’t run alongside Office 2013, so you’ll need to uninstall the older version first.

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Noizio brings the soothing sounds of nature to your Mac

Noizio

When you’re working on a computer, trying to concentrate on the task in hand, background noise can be a real distraction. Whether it’s a busy office, TV, music, or just other people moving around your home, it’s all too easy for your mood to be broken. Again, and again, and again.

Noizio is a free Mac app which can drown out the regular background sounds with something more soothing, ambient soundscapes which help you ignore any irritations and focus on what you really want to do.

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Collect, organize and share your text notes with NoteCase Pro Lite

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Notepad is a great tool for creating occasional ad-hoc text notes, but if your desktop is cluttered with TXT files, and you can’t remember what’s in any of them, it may be time to look for an alternative.

NoteCase Pro Lite is a free cross-platform (Win, OS X, Android, Linux) application which helps you get a little more organized. It allows you to enter text, apply simple formatting, insert images, and structure notes into lists or trees to build simple outlines.

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Resource Hacker 4.0 adds *.RES file creation

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It's been more than three years since the last update, but Angus Johnson has just announced the latest release of his classic freeware tool Resource Hacker 4.0.

The program is designed to view, modify, or save resources from Windows executables (*.exe, *.dll, *.cpl, *.ocx etc) and Windows resource files (*.res).

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Set your wallpaper to a single shade with LoneColor

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Family photos, landscapes, animals, celebs, even live video: there’s no shortage of wallpaper options, or programs to help you change from one image to another.

While this seems like a good idea at first, there are potential problems. Really detailed images can be a distraction -- especially when they’re changing all the time -- and can make it harder to read icon captions.

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Microsoft reveals Code editor for Windows, Mac, Linux

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Microsoft has announced the first public preview of Visual Studio Code, a free cross-platform developer’s editor for Windows, Mac and Linux.

As you’d expect with this kind of tool, there’s syntax highlighting, autocompletion, bracket matching and similar support for a lot of languages: C++, jade, PHP, Python, XML, Batch, F#, DockerFile, Coffee Script, Java, HandleBars, R, Objective-C, PowerShell, Luna, Visual Basic, Markdown, JavaScript, JSON, HTML, CSS, LESS, SASS, C# and TypeScript, with more to come,

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Tor blocks third-party tracking, debuts security slider

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Privacy software Tor has been updated to version 4.5 with a stack of new and enhanced features.

Improved website isolation stops most third-party tracking by social networking buttons, adverts and "mashup" content.

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Generate gorgeous math-based art with Spirograph

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Spirograph is a classic geometric drawing toy, developed 50 years ago and still popular today.

Normally it involves using multiple gears to draw intricate patterns on sheets of paper, but if that sounds like too much hassle then you could just download the open source (and entirely unofficial) Spirograph for your PC.

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Caddy is a hassle-free web server

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Running your own local web server can make it easier to develop and test websites, but there’s one small obstacle to install first: you’ll have to find, download and install one, and figure out how to set it up.

Caddy is a simple but surprisingly capable server which cuts through the usual hassle and can handle simple sites with no configuration at all.

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Scan your Mac for malware with KnockKnock UI

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Windows malware may get all the attention, but OS X can be vulnerable too, and if you think your Mac might be infected by something dubious then it’s important to take a closer look.

KnockKnock UI is a tiny free application which lists persistently installed Mac software (modules which are loaded when your system starts), submits them to VirusTotal for checking with 50+ antivirus engines, and reports the results.

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treev is a Chrome search bar for your cloud files

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In theory, storing your files in the cloud means you can access them from anywhere. But in practice, there’s often a complication: you’ll have to find them first.

Treev is a free Chrome extension which can search all your Google Drive, Dropbox, Trello or Box accounts from a single search bar.

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Create, convert, encrypt, annotate, and watermark PDFs with PDF-Pro

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If you need to work with PDFs then you’ve probably built up a whole library of tools to help out: a viewer, a creator, maybe a conversion tool, something else to split or merge files, and the list goes on.

EPapyrus PDF-Pro tries to replace all of these -- and a whole lot more -- with a single free (for personal use, $49 otherwise) package.

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Synfig Studio's 2D animation suite hits version 1.0

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After more than 18 months of intense development, open source 2D animation tool Synfig Studio has at last hit version 1.0.

The release brings a pile of professional features, including a complete bone system with automatic shape deformation, a new cutout tool, a dynamics converter with automatic friction effects, a bitmap painting engine, initial support for bitmap frame-by-frame animation, and more.

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Find the best Wi-Fi networks around the world with wiMAN

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Restaurants, malls, trains, hotels: it can feel as though Wi-Fi is everywhere these days. Until you’re traveling, when you can still spend an age trying to find a network, only to find it’s password-protected or the local winner of Slowest Wi-Fi 2015.

WiMAN is a free Wi-Fi manager for Android and iOS which can display a map of all your local Wi-Fi networks, along with estimates of distance (x minutes by foot/ car), and flagging them as "verified" (another wiMAN user has connected), "authentication provided" (another user has connected but you need a user name/ password) or "not verified" (no-one has connected yet).

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