For software that isn't tied to one machine.

Monday, July 6, 2009

PicPick Review

Image freeware too good to be free

Gleefully bleeding across boundaries in software categories, this outstanding tool is much more than a color identifier or image capture software, beating out a number of other portable freeware titles in one unified package. The developer(s) clearly know something about writing good software.

Graphics editor

The Image Editor will find a home on many computers. While it lacks power features of many other titles, its fast, simple, and clean. The warmth and usability of this software is undeniable and its easily a match for advanced editors, fulfilling the vast majority of user needs. With rotation, color tools, sharpen, blur, frame effects, this basic editor would make PicPick worthwhile software all by itself. The tabbed format is very welcome and holds the various different images that come up as the user takes one or many screen shots:

Most of the remaining tools present are likely for a more narrow group mostly made up of web developers or technical writers:
  • Screen Capture - Although the program is extremely flexible, the basic focus of the software seems to be its Screen Capture ability, which it does beautifully. Screens can be grabbed in many shapes and sizes, then handed off smoothly to the internal editor for more options, or further cleaning.
Alternately, users can skip the internal editor altogether by right-clicking the taskbar icon and selecting "Capture Settings" - "Output Format," allows captured files can be sent to an external editor like Photoshop or GIMP, auto-save, or "Save As" dialog, or simply put on the clipboard to be "pasted" elsewhere.
  • Color Picker - Uses a small cross-hair window to help a user find the exact pixel whose color is needed. This is great for taking a logo and turning out a whole design based on its theme, or visa versa. One problem with this problem is that the Print Screen button (which saves the code for the color chosen) doesn't exist on some laptops. This cannot be changed under the settings.

  • Pixel ruler - similar to the On-Screen Ruler program, a semi-transparent ruler that allows users to see in pixels how wide something is on screen. Mostly needed in web design, as in this example where its measuring a stone at Stone Henge.

  • Protractor - helps you find angles on screen. Pick a center, then a location, then the angle in degrees away from the first. Can be used in a variety of photography, math, and graphics applications. Would like to see a function where those values are saved to clipboard or automatically in a screen capture. As it stands, users need to find a spare piece of paper or memorize the angle.

  • Crosshair - place one mark and then move your cursor to see where the placement is relative to the first. This can be useful for example in developing HTML image maps. Just dragging the crosshair around shows you the number of pixels (starting at 0,0 in the top left). Negatively, as users near the left side of the screen, the coordinates could move to the opposite side of the X and Y axies as they just go off screen when you reach the bottom or right side.

  • Whiteboard - works right over top of your current desktop, a sort of an interactive image capture tool. Use it in meetings where groups must have input on a given area. Works before a screen capture to help modify or highlight areas of importance on your screen.
Problems: missing an undo function -- if you make a mistake, you can only clear the screen and start over. A metered bar on the bar doesn't control transparency dynamically.

(Example of some over-image edit tools including arrow and draw tool.)

  • Magnifier - Gives a closer look at small pixels on the screen, useful either for vision impairment or to see small pixels on very large screens. Integrated into many of the tools above. Other tools exist that do this, but PicPick's window can be enlarged and can zoomed in and out.

Simply put, PicPick has no competition. The only benefit that the out-of-date FS Capture has is a slightly cleaner drawing system that has a nice, friendly shadow on all of its drawing tools. Otherwise, this tool has swiftly replaced FS Capture in the Kitchen Sink.


  • Space Saver Trick: Users can also delete all non English files from the "language" folder if drive space is an issue.
  • Reset All Settings Back to Defaults - delete "picpick.ini"


System Requirements: Windows 2000 / XP
Size: 1 meg (without non-English .ini files)
RAM Usage: 2.8 megs
License: Freeware (donate!)
Score: 10 of 10. The few bugs in the program and annoyances couldn't keep this software off the short list of oustanding Portable Freeware.
In Kitchen Sink Collection? Yes - will replace FS Capture in the next release as well as On-Screen Ruler.

Update: PortableFreeware user Yucca strongly disagrees with my 10 out of 10, pointing to issues discussed on this thread.

Edit: Further testing has found a few reasons FS Capture has yet to be replaced, including a delayed capture, capture options that don't lean on hotkeys, and demonstration tools. This would have brought the review probably down to a 9/10 but continued updates by an active developer may easily address these issues.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

WinSplit Revolution Review

There's research on the productivity bonus of multiple monitors (estimated at 44%), but if you have a larger or wide-screen monitor, there are ways to leverage your screen real estate. Just dragging windows around can create a way to compare different information screens and more, but this process is tedious.

There's been a screen-sorting method in Windows for a long time where the user can right-click the taskbar and select "Tile Windows Vertically / Horizontally" (as below). However, windows never quite fit and always seem to overlap just a little bit. Resizing the windows in any format seems to constantly cause problems and right-clicking repeatedly becomes painful.

Window "pockets"

However, there's a better and much faster method to do this with windows that snap into predefined places. The excellent WinSplit does just that. Although there's supposed to be an interface system that does just that to be built into Windows 7, you can do it now with Windows XP and Vista.

You can move windows into different regions (left half, right half, lower quarter, upper quarter) while holding ctrl+alt and it will pop into place. If you scroll your mouse wheel during this process, it will rotate through several different available options. The smooth warmth of a clean window-snap isn't there yet but its more than good enough.


The only negative for this program is that most of the hotkey items require the number pad on standard keyboards, expecting that laptop users wouldn't be interested. However, many laptops have larger or wide-screens that can also use software like this (especially the note + window look below). Fortunately the ctrl+alt system described above is more than adequate and may be all you use anyway.

Another more minor concern for some users will be that, although there is a portable option during install, this program has not been accepted as truly portable by the PortableFreeware collection. See the forum on this topic.
Version: 9.02
Size: 4 megs
RAM Usage: 5.3 megs
License: Freeware
Score: 9 out of 10 - One of the reasons portable software exists and is so important. The minor flaws with key combinations don't prevent this from being absolutely essential.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: Waiting on acceptance to the portablefreeware collection.