Category Archives: Utilities

They call me mellow yellow*

I try to keep the many and various areas of my work separated by the obvious means of creating lots of Windows folders and sub-folders. For easy access, I’ve prefixed the top five sub-folders with a number so that arranging by name places them at the top in my preferred order. Another or additional method would be to have the ability to change each folder icon to something more meaningful, colourful and ideally attractive so that it stands out from the standard yellow icons. Amongst others that aim to achieve this, I found ‘Folder Marker v3.2’, which is a shell extension utility to customise folder icons. I thought I’d give it a try.

folder marker context menuHaving installed Folder Marker, as you might expect from a shell extension, it met my first acceptance criterion which is the ability to use it from the context menu to change a folder’s appearance on-the-fly. A right click on a folder (or secondary mouse button click) and selecting ‘Mark Folder’ brings up a sub-menu that lists folder colours, favourite folder icons, more icons and the option to restore default. Click one of the listed icons and it’s job done, your folder icon will change accordingly (you may need to do a simple refresh).

A two click process

It gets better though; the icons in the context menu can be customised from the available icon sets which in most cases makes changing a folder icon a simple two-click process. Nice. Compare this with ‘Lovely Folders 4’, an excellent and similar utility, which requires at least six mouse clicks to change a folder icon. Folderico is also similar and appears to offer a context menu option but in fact this only works for 32bit Windows.

Folder Marker will also handle multiple folder changes, just select all of the folders in the normal way and click the required icon to change the whole group.  Selecting ‘Apply selected icon to all subfolders’ does what it says. All very neat.

The menu item ‘More Icons’ opens up the main application to provide a wider selection of icons from tabs named as ‘Everyday, ABC, Main and User Icons’. The latter as it implies provides the ability to add your own icons.  The Action menu includes ‘Customize Mark Folder’ menu item, which gives access to customisation of the icons available in the context menu.

folder marker mainFolder Marker is available in three versions, Pro, Home and Free. The main difference between the first two is that the Pro version targets the office worker and has support for changing network folder icons, it includes additional work related icons and the changes to icons can be made distributable or portable.

Folder Marker Pro is priced at $34.95, Folder Marker Home is $24.95 and both are available for download and trial at http://www.foldermarker.com

An additional 60+ set of (so called Vista) icons can be purchased for $19.95.

The reference to Vista (Windows 7 has been around for nearly 3 years) and the lack of any recent updates is a concern and would seem to indicate that maybe development has stopped on this product, which would be a shame. It’s also quite expensive for a shell utility (when there are freeware alternatives) and I think that the extra icons should be included in the basic price of the Pro and Home versions, otherwise it’s excellent and probably the best of its kind.

[s3r star=3.5/5]

*”Mellow Yellow”, Donovan, Epic Records, 1966

Spot the difference

To supplement my review of UEStudio v12 last month, I’ve now taken a look at the companion product UltraCompare Professional v8.3 from IDM Computer Solutions. First impressions are good but with some room for improvement.

Folder SyncAs stated on the IDM website, UltraCompare Professional is a folder/file compare utility loaded with features to enable you to compare text files and folders, Word documents, and even zip files and jar archives. It’s much more powerful than the lite version supplied with UEStudio and UltraEdit with some very worthwhile features. My highlights include;

  • compare text files (obviously)
  • compare binary files
  • colour coded highlighting
  • merge lines or blocks of text
  • compare and synchronise folders
  • tabbed sessions

Looking at the detail shows how powerful this utility application is, including being able to compare files over FTP, 3-way compare, web page compare (by typing the URL) and the option to save favourite files and folders.

Synchronise FoldersThere is also built-in support for comparing native Microsoft Word documents (.doc and .docx) to highlight differences in text content. If merged, the files can only be saved as unformatted text but it is a useful tool for identifying minor changes to a large document which would be difficult to find by other means. If you write your documentation in Word this would be an ideal way of checking for version differences

UltraCompare includes a useful print function for file or folder listings but the print preview doesn’t provide an option to switch to landscape mode which, considering the width required for side-by-side comparison, would have been helpful.

Duplicate File Finder

UltraCompare includes a duplicate file finder that provides the ability to find duplicate files based on Find Duplicatesname, size or binary content by selecting and comparing two folders. This is accessed from the File->Find Duplicates menu option which then opens a dialogue box to set the search criteria. Clicking ‘Start’ runs the comparison and the view switches to the Results Report tab. The duplicate file finder needs some minor tweaks on the user interface as on my screen the identified duplicate files are listed in a cramped left pane, making it difficult to scan through them. The dialogue window itself can be re-sized thereby widening this pane but the re-sizing is not remembered for the next time it’s used.

Duplicate files can be deleted by selecting the associated check boxes and clicking ‘Delete Checked’. This requires stepping through each set of duplicates to delete as you go, as there’s no option to select and delete multiple duplicates i.e. it doesn’t retain the check box state between sets for a final bulk delete operation.

The other frustration for a new user is the lack of a local help file. Using help opens a web page on the IDM website which is not ideal and can be tiresome to navigate and use.

Despite these issues UltraCompare Professional v8.3 is a very competent file and folder comparison tool that goes well beyond the basics offered by many others. Its main competitor for file/ folder comparison is Beyond Compare which is priced similarly but for users of either UltraEdit or UEStudio the built-in integration of UltraCompare with each of these, and the extra features, make it more appealing.

UltraCompare Professional v8.30 is available for Windows, Mac and Linux and can be downloaded from the IDM Computer Solutions website as a 30 day trial and purchased for $49.95

[s3r star=4/5]

Right to reply: I received a response to this review from Rich at IDM Computer Solutions, who made some valid points in regard to the online help system.

“The online help allows users to access the latest documentation in their language according to their favored platform.  Our user community at large has welcomed this across our product line.  What is also noteworthy about our online help is that will allow you to download any topic or print a topic or for that matter – the entire manual.  In fact, we purchased a specific online help back-end solution to especially provide these benefits to our users. The online help is also integrated with our localization software and provider so new content is essentially provided to our user community in real time, vs only available in software upgrades.” – Richard L. Knott, IDM Computer Solutions

Mouse Sans Frontières

If you use more than one computer at the same desk e.g a desktop PC and a laptop, then it’s annoying to have to use a separate mouse and keyboard for each. There are open source applications that can help such as Input Director or Synergy or you could use a KVM switch but there’s now a  new solution, for Windows OS only, from the Microsoft Garage.

Mouse Without Borders

The free application is called ‘Mouse Without Borders’ and it lets you share your mouse and keyboard with other Windows OS computers and even lets you drag and drop files between them.

Download it here

[s3r star=4/5]