Wednesday, June 30, 2010 “Cool Websites and Tools [June 29th]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [June 29th]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [June 29th]

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 08:31 PM PDT

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE (or come with a decent free account option). No trials or buy-to-use craplets. For more cool websites and web app reviews subscribe to MakeUseOf Directory.

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MyBestFace – Everyone wants to have their best profile picture posted on their Facebook or Twitter account. However, it is hard to know what picture looks best on you. You can ask people online which of your pictures look best with MyBestFace.
Click to continue: MyBestFace: Choose The Best Photo for Facebook or any other profile.



Kylo – If you're looking to make use of the web on your TV, standard browsers simply don't cut it. Enter Kylo, a web browser for TV. Based on the Mozilla engine, the same backend that brought you Firefox, this is a browser designed to work well from the couch.
Click to continue: Kylo: A Web Browser For Your TV.



Encrypt Easy – Emailing is a relatively secure mode of transferring information. But you cannot be fully sure that the recipient will be the only person reading the email. To protect your message from such interceptions, you can employ text encryption and decryption tool Encrypt Easy.
Click to continue: Encrypt Easy: Easy Text Encryption and Decryption Tool.



TopicFire – There are many event reporting websites; so much so that it becomes difficult to tackle them all and obtain news from them. It is even more difficult to stay informed of news on a particular topic. Topicfire was created to keep up with latest news in a real time environment.
Click to continue: Topicfire: Read Topic Specifid News In Real Time.



BlogRadio – RSS Feeds are a great way to easily skim through your desired readings but they can get too texty and boring to read. BlogRadio is a great tool that takes your RSS feeds and convert them to audio speech so you can listen to them instead of reading them.
Click to continue: BlogRadio: Converts Rss To Audio.


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These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

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The 10 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 07:31 PM PDT

MakeUseOf AnswersTough questions are in abundance at MakeUseOf Answers. Unfortunately, we cannot solve all of them.  It’s our hope that you will spot a question that is easy to answer for you. Will you accept the challenge?

A good answer can earn you $50 in our Best Answer of the Week contest. Just use a valid email address or your Facebook account when you answer. Winners are announced every Friday.

So have a peek at this week’s toughest questions:

  1. How can I install iOS 4 on my iPod Touch 2G using Ubuntu 10.04?
  2. Is there any way to connect a Mac mini to a monitor and a TV at the same time?
  3. How can I connect my mini DV camcorder to the iMac?
  4. How can I install VMware server 2 in Ubuntu 10.4 64-bit?
  5. Can I click desktop icons through Aero Peek?
  6. Can you recommend freeware or open source software for a MasterMind group?
  7. Why do desktop favorites lag and lock up constantly?
  8. Why won't chkdsk notify screen go away?
  9. Is there a program that simulates the IBM Model M keyboard?
  10. How can I raise my mig level to 50 in a day?

Many more interesting questions are waiting for you at MakeUseOf Answers. Browse by Latest Questions, Unanswered Questions or Most Popular Questions. For regular updates subscribe to the Answers RSS Feed.

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3 Free Alternatives to Google’s Feedburner

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 06:31 PM PDT

A lot of the blog content we consume each day is from our feed readers. It would be nice to remember to visit all of our favorite blogs each day but feed readers allow us to consolidate all of this information so we don’t miss anything. It’s more practical, which is why a lot of people who follow multiple blogs tend to use them.

Whether you’re using a feed reader to manage all of your RSS feeds or you are managing your blog’s feed yourself, chances are you’re using Feedburner to do it. Feedburner is the standard when it comes to feed syndication, and alternatives are hard to come by.

I’ve taken it upon myself to locate the best alternatives to Feedburner online. It wasn’t easy, but if you’re looking to try something different or migrate your feed syndication needs elsewhere, you’ve come to the right place.


feedburner alternatives

Feedcat is one such alternative to Feedburner. They allow you to promote your feed content and measure audiences with their bookmarking, sharing, and proxy services. The site is dedicated to boosting feeds and serves as a public catalog of RSS and Atom feeds. Services and feed submission are free.

feedburner alternatives

Feedcat also enables you to place a feed button anywhere on your site.

The number of readers/subscribers you have is monitored through the button and it provides an easy way to for people to subscribe to your feed. The service claims to have served over 50 million icons monthly.


feedburner alternatives

Feedity creates an RSS feed for any webpage and allows for social media monitoring, the aggregating of multiple feeds, and publishing of feeds on your website.

Feedity offers a few different pricing plans but they do have a free option. They claim no setup or termination fees and that their site will always have a free option. With the free package, you are allowed 10 feeds with a feed update interval of 5 hours (not great, but not bad for personal use), and the inclusion of ads in your feed.


With RapidFeeds you can create, publish, import, or manage existing feeds. Password protect your private or paid feeds and update/schedule your feeds in real-time. One plus with RapidFeeds is that it supports podcasting with iTunes, which means you could broadcast your thoughts and ideas if you wanted to start up your own podcast.

RapidFeeds has a free option of their FeedManager packages that allows for 1 feed, an unlimited number of items, iTunes support, scheduling, password protection, and regular support. Other options include advanced tracking statistics, auto tweet capability, and a branded feed URL.

PostRank [Honorable Mention]

PostRank, which we covered a long time ago, is a great alternative to Feedburner. The reason I’m only giving it an honorable mention in this article is because it appears that it no longer supports a free option for its users (at least I couldn’t find one). I am not aware if this will change in the future but PostRank is used by a lot of top websites and is definitely worth a mention.

The service is very analytical and is the largest aggregator of social engagement data in the industry. PostRank collects social engagement data that measures user activity, which they claim is the most accurate indicator of the relevance and influence of a site. Much RSS and content data is monitored and analyzed with this service.


In conclusion, there really isn’t a solid, free alternative to Feedburner. If you are looking for a simpler alternative that does the basic feed syndication and management things well, this list should provide a good starting point. I don’t know whether this lack of competition is due to widespread acceptance of Feedburner or not, but it is leaving those of us who would like a decent alternative shorthanded.

What do you think of Feedburner’s dominance in this area? Have you used one of the above services? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Image Credit: magbag

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Create an Intelligent Online News Filter Using GreatNews

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 04:31 PM PDT

news filterIn an investigative organization that I work with, we conduct a great deal of research and release news articles on our findings. Often we need to monitor the Internet for reactions and additional leads, and of course one of the best methods to do this is through the magic of RSS feeds.

However, when you consider how many thousands of website, blog and even comment RSS feeds there are on the net, the task of reading through all of those RSS information streams and extracting important information is a very daunting one. Information on the Internet is so vast that if you want to collect and analyze any meaningful information, you really need to have a system where you can add as many input data streams as possible, and then use a news filter to automatically analyze, sort and respond to only the relevant and important information.

I’ve found that the GreatNews “Intelligent RSS Reader” is just that – intelligent. With the amount of research and writing that I have to do on so many topics every month, I really don’t have time to “Google” the Internet and sift through thousands of search results. Instead, I create customized RSS feeds inside the GreatNews desktop application to aggregate all newly published information on a broad topic, and then configure GreatNews as a news filter to search through and isolate only those articles that matter to me.

Turn GreatNews Into Your Own Private Intelligence Analyst

Most major news organizations have folks back at the office who are “data miners.” These are people who specialize in digging through records and information and eventually turning up information that’s relevant to what you’re researching. If you are an expert in a given field and want to remain updating on specific niche topics that you’re interested in, I’m going to show you how you can transform GreatNews into your own private data-miner.

news filter

When you first install the GreatNews desktop app, it appears as shown above. There are default feeds and topics already on the left “feed” menu, and the center window is essentially your feed display – and it also doubles as a built-in browser that you can use to open the links and read the articles on their actual websites.

filter rss feeds

For your purpose of scouring the web for information, you’re not actually interested in subscribing to specific individual feeds as you would with a normal feed reader. Instead, you’re going to create “search feeds” that conducts Internet searches and returns the RSS feed of articles that match your query.

Adding Incoming Data Feeds For GreatNews

You set this up by clicking on “Feed” in the menu and then drilling down to Add -> Search Feed.

filter rss feeds

Let’s say you want to monitor all new Internet stories that are published on a specific person’s name. This may be a relative, a friend or someone that you’re investigating for a news story. Internet blogs are often a very valuable source of important information about any topic. Private citizens publish content every day on a huge assortment of topics, and being able to gather “public intelligence” on any keyword topic of your choice offers tremendous insight. It could also offer you a critical lead for a breaking story within your industry or field of study.

You can create “RSS Search Feeds” with MSN, Flickr, or Google Blogs as a source. You just trigger the feed to conduct the search and update the feed with any changes. Now, the data source list may feel somewhat limiting. What if you’d like to know about new articles published and appearing in a standard Google search? This is what Google Alerts is for. Abhijeet previously covered Google Alerts, and Saikat wrote up a fantastic review of the service. Within Google Alerts, you can set up search queries for specific keywords, and in the “Deliver to” field, you can change the delivery method from “Email” to “Feed.

filter rss feeds

When you do this and click “Create Alert,” Google Alerts creates a customized RSS search feed for you based on results from a standard Google search for that keyword phrase. Your feed will update anytime anything new appears within Google search listings for that keyword phrase. To add this as another valuable data stream to your GreatNews information analysis system, simply highlight and copy the feed URL from Alerts, and paste it into the Feed URL field when you create a new GreatNews feed.

organize rss feeds

It’s a very good idea to take the time to go through and set up as many search feeds as you can, so that you have as much incoming data as possible. Now that you’ve set up your data sources from throughout the Internet, it’s time to configure GreatNews to analyze and sort that information for you.

Turn GreatNews Into A News Filter

If you have a feed reader, than you’ve probably experienced “information overload” from all of the feeds you’ve set up. There’s so much information about things you don’t care about that it’s easy to miss the articles about the things you do. So, first you’re going to organize all of your feeds using the GreatNews news filter, based on the keyword topics you’re interested in monitoring.

organize rss feeds

In the left menu, right click “All Labels” and select Add -> Feed Group. Type in the topic or phrase that you are monitoring, and then click and drag all of the feeds you created into that Feed Group.

organize rss feeds

Now you’ve organized all of your incoming data feeds by search topic. When you left click on the group, you’ll see feed listings from all of the feeds you’ve added. If you wanted to, you could simply scan through these for titles that interest you and then click on “Label This” to pick off the specific stories that interest you.

You can create a new label for the sub-topic that title falls into. For example if you’re monitoring all articles about Microsoft, you may find a story about Bill Gates, so you’d create a label called “Microsoft: Bill Gates.”  This lets you click set aside important stories into “folders” that you can go back and read later.

The thing is – I’m much too busy to scroll through and pick off those topics manually. Wouldn’t it be better to have GreatNews do it for you? You can do this by right clicking on the Feed Group you created for a particular search term, and select Add -> News Watch.”

This is where it gets really cool. In this window, you can identify more specific keywords that you want GreatNews to use to pluck out stories that really interest you. For example, in a case we’re investigating, I’m looking for any new reports about a specific person that references the term “stolen valor.” So I will configure a “News Watch” that will flag all titles which cover that aspect of this topic.

Now, when you open up GreatNews, you can go directly to your special “News Watches” area and check those specific topics that you are monitoring for any new articles or news reports that were recently published.

news filter

In this example, I just had GreatNews automatically sift through hundreds of news articles on a general topic that I’m investigating, and then I had it pluck out specific articles that cover sub-topics I’ve defined as very important to me. Now, instead of scrolling through hundreds of titles, you can open up GreatNews and it will serve you the article that you wanted on a silver platter – no manual searching required on your part!

Have you ever tried using GreatNews to cut down on information overload? Give it a shot and report back what you think of the service in the comments section below.

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What Is oEmbed & How Does It Make Using Wordpress Easier? [Technology Explained]

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 02:31 PM PDT

oembed wordpressIf you have been using Facebook for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that when you post a link to a YouTube video, Facebook embeds the video into your update for you.  It also works on several other types of links such as MP3 files.  I post links to recordings sometimes and this comes in handy.

Ever since version 2.9, Wordpress has given users the ability to link from several services (such as Flickr and YouTube) and have the content automatically embedded without you having to grab a bunch of code.  Wordpress uses the oEmbed protocol to accomplish this.  You might be asking “so what is this oEmbed thing all about and how does it help a Wordpress user like me?”

What Is oEmbed for Wordpress?

oEmbed has been described several different ways.  The Wordpress Codex describes it this way:

…a protocol for site A (such as your blog) to ask site B (such as YouTube) for the HTML needed to embed content (such as a video) from site B.

oEmbed’s homepage also gives a description:

oEmbed is a format for allowing an embedded representation of a URL on third party sites. The simple API allows a website to display embedded content (such as photos or videos) when a user posts a link to that resource, without having to parse the resource directly.

So basically, oEmbed makes it possible for a webpage (ie. a Wordpress site) to turn a link into embedded media simply by sending a request to the originator of the media content (such as YouTube or Flickr) for the embed code.

OK, so what does all that mean to me as a Wordpress user?

How Does oEmbed Work With Wordpress?

If you remember my example at the beginning about how Facebook handles YouTube links, you will know how YouTube links work in Wordpress 2.9 and later.  You used to have to stop what you were doing, find the video to be embedded, and then find the embed code to paste into the HTML version of the post you were working on.

This process worked fine but now things are easier because of oEmbed.  Now, just grab the link.  There are two ways of using the link.  Allow me to demonstrate how it works using my own Wordpress site.

  • Grab the link from the YouTube page.

oembed wordpress

  • Paste the link on its own line.

embed content from another site

  • This is what you’ll see.

embed content from another site

  • Or you can use a short code and type something similar to this and have some flexibility with formatting:

embed content from another site

  • This example would look like this:

oembed wordpress

In basic terms that is what oEmbed is and how it works with Wordpress.  Wordpress does not allow use of just any old URL with oEmbed for security reasons.  There is a list of accepted sites on the Wordpress Codex page about embeds.  It should also be mentioned that you can add more sites.  This process should be left for another article to cover.

Wordpress seems to be on a never ending journey to make our lives easier.  This embedding ability is just another small example.   What Wordpress feature do you like that makes your life easier?   Have you tried oEmbed?

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Hot Tech Deals [June 29th]

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 01:30 PM PDT

If you’re in the market for a new computer, laptop, mobile phone, games and other accessories; don’t waste your time searching online. We’ve taken the liberty of locating the best tech deals and unifying them into a single post for your convenience.

For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.

  1. HP Mini 110 Atom 1.66GHz 10″ Widescreen Netbook for $280 + free shipping
  2. Lenovo coupons: 20% off select laptops and desktops
  3. HP Pavilion Core i7 Dual 2.66GHz 14″ Laptop for $955 via coupon code “NBE725947″
  4. Apple MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz 15″ for $1,599 + $9 s&h
  5. Apex 40″ 1080p Widescreen LCD HDTV for $480 + free shipping
  6. App Store Freebies: Super KO Boxing, Action Buggy, more
  7. Klipsch S2m Noise-Isolating Headset for $29 + free shipping

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

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10 Music Search Engines To Discover Cool Music, Musicians & Great Bands

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 12:31 PM PDT

music search enginesThe web is a concert stage with a free entry ticket for music buffs. Music search is so popular that Google itself has a music service rollout planned but remains limited to US audiences only for the time being. Google has joined the bandwagon pretty late. There are music web services aplenty and we have covered a host of them.

Our hunger for tunes has yet to get saturated. In fact, in spite of being a tech site in feel and color we too have a weekly feature called Sound Sunday. It's a humble little place to discover fresh sounds for free.

Sound Sunday is just one of the specks in the cosmos of music discovery. There are umpteen ways and each link you click will take you in new directions.

But if you are planning to lose your way in the musical maze, why not use a few music search engines or read a few music blogs? The web tools mentioned here are in no way an absolute list; but they can point you towards the sources for music, musicians, and bands. So let's hit it.


music search engines

Fimusy (beta) is a new music search engine that helps you find information on bands and the songs they play. It brings all the information on a single page. You can go through a brief profile, video snapshots, photos (wallpapers, CD covers etc), and tracks which can be streamed. You can go on to buy the tracks and albums from iTunes or Amazon.

There's also a user voting system which helps to rank favorite artists and bands on the homepage. Check out the Top lists on the right.


music talent search

BandFreaks is a music search engine, but it is for searching out new and unsigned bands. It could be a great way to search for and sample emerging artists.

With unknown musicians, a keyword query is difficult. Three dropdowns help you to narrow down the kind of music you would like to listen to. The results are a mix of a brief introduction and a link that leads you to pages where you can listen to their music. And get to know them better.


music talent search

SongBoxx is a music meta-search engine that is an index of 7,000,000 tracks. The site does not host or directly stream any music. The search results come up pretty fast. Song previews (mp3 or video) if available for the track can be accessed. The audio previews are of low quality. You can go on to purchase the songs from accredited stores. An advanced search service is expected soon for the music website.


music talent search

LivePlasma (formerly MusicPlasma) is a fun way of discovering music (and movies). The fun is in the bubbles that come up and map your query to related artists and bands. The site uses the Amazon API to create all the interrelated information.

It's casual fun although I found that the links that point to the discographies on Amazon are broken. The ones for the movies work.

Mix Turtle

what is the best music search engine

Mix Turtle is a music search engine that we have covered before. Try it out again as it isn't as slow as the hard-backed reptile.

The single search box and the auto-suggest feature that drops down help you to start your search for song and singer. You can add songs to your playlist or preview the clips. If one of the sources does not work, you can move to another. Clicking on the red Live button on top also reveals the songs that are being played at that moment.


what is the best music search engine

Audiobaba (beta) finds songs that sound similar to the one you put in as the query. The idea behind the acoustic search of Audiobaba's search engine is to discover new songs by matching it to the ones you like to hear. You can listen to the sample previews, and if you like them, you can purchase them at Amazon or iTunes.

Hear a song you like and add it to your bookmarks or favorites. You can also filter the matches with a slider to show tracks that are mainstream, normal, or independent.

The Hype Machine

what is the best music search engine

The Hype Machine is one of the top ranked musical blog aggregators. It indexes blogs and the song files they host and makes it searchable, so you can read as well as listen. The slick toolbar at the bottom should catch your attention as you can do it all with a click.

Check out the zeitgeist section and the visual artwork plus the top tracks collection. The Spy section is like a real time feed of the songs people are voting up. It also helps that the music site is beautifully designed.


Here's another one which could just complete your reading and listening treat. Elbows is another beautifully done blog. You can follow the music blog posts and discover new “old” artists and their music files. As is usual with most blogs, watch the Hot Tracks and Hot Videos lists.

AllMusic is not a music search engine. But if you want one music guide for your bookmark, this is it. It is a great reference for everything that's about music. Artists and their music are catalogued in detail. The little snapshot below tells you the ways you can search for the music you love.

The other little number is that the human capital behind the site includes 900 music critics who are on top of their job and what's going on in the music industry.

Also, try out their Advanced Search that drills down to the music in a series of dropdowns. The site also provides a Firefox add-on, but I think you can give this add-on a miss and take the next one on our list.


music search engines

All this while you have been opening another tab and typing in your search query. FindThatBand is a Firefox add-on that reduces that effort to a matter of selecting the text and right-clicking. The music add-on taps into Allmusic, Amazon, Discogs, Grooveshark, iLike, iTunes, LastFM, MySpace, Pandora, The Hype Machine, or Wikipedia. If you are a music freak, this little add-on is a great search accelerator.

These are just ten little ways to feed our listening pleasure. I am sure you have lots more to add. Tell us about your favorite music and band discovery tools.

Image Credit: Max Sparber

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How To Configure Adium For Custom MSN Emoticons [Mac]

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 11:31 AM PDT

MSN, nowadays going by the name Windows Live Messenger, is in many parts of the world still the leading instant messaging protocol.

One of the less pleasant discoveries upon migrating to Mac OS X is that Microsoft’s Messenger client (for Mac) is as bad as they come. Or, as others might put it, complete crap.

Of course, there are alternative IM applications for our beloved Mac. I’m thinking about aMSN, an expendable but oftentimes messy MSN clone; Trillian, multi-protocol minimalism; and, most famously, Adium.

The latter is the leading Mac IM client, with great expandability, looks, and support for most popular protocols. The downside of this multi-protocolism is the lack of support for some MSN features that are now deemed essential, most notably the ability to use custom emoticons.

Below is an Adium fix, so you can hang out with the cool guys once again.

1. Receiving Custom Emoticons

Later versions of Adium already allow you to receive and display custom emoticons while talking with MSN correspondents. However, a bug has kept some Adium installs from putting this, otherwise default, feature to use.

Double-checking doesn’t hurt. Open Adium -> Preferences… -> Advanced -> MSN and make sure the checkbox next to ‘Display custom emoticons‘ is ticked. If you can’t find this setting, and you’re using at least Adium v.1.4, you needn’t worry about this bug; it’s already taken care of in some later releases.

2. Sending Custom Emoticons (Unofficial Fix)

Sending custom emoticons is not a default feature (yet), but Fabio Gallonetto made his own alterations to Adium’s (open) source code. Read more about it on his blog. The essence of the matter is that after appending said changes and recompiling the application, the preferences pane shows an option to add custom smileys with nothing more than a shortcut and the path to an image file.

Once we’re done, you’ll be able to find this option under Adium -> Preferences… -> Appearance by clicking on the Customize… button next to your default emoticon pack.

Adium can sometimes be stubborn about the shortcut you’re trying to specify. To avoid this, click outside of the text field to deselect it, before pressing Close.

2.a – Download An Already Fixed Adium v.1.4 (Beta)

Compiling an application (i.e. creating an executable file from the source code), although considered rudimentary among programmers, can be quite daunting for us regular folks. In consideration, Fabio Gallonetto (the developer of this fix) put online a precompiled copy of the fixed Adium.

This file uses Adium version 1.4 (beta), so know that even though it performs admirably at the moment, at some point in time it’s going to be outdated. But, for now, it’s everything you could wish for.

Download fixed Adium-1.4 [alternative link]

This ZIP file contains the (fixed) Adium application. Head over to your Applications folder, put your current Adium installation somewhere safe, and replace it with the unpacked file you just downloaded. This Adium replacement should retain all your current preferences!

2.b – Fix & Compile A Different Version Of Adium Yourself

You might be enticed to fix and compile a different version of the Adium source code. Before you do, note these concerns. Appending this fix, and recompiling Adium is only advised for advanced computer users; (amateur) developers that know their way around applications like Xcode. Xcode alone is a 2GB download, and although a relatively user-friendly application, still a mighty impressive suite.

Rather than a how-to guide, this part is for reference. To build Adium, you’ll need Xcode, which can be obtained here after registering for the free Apple Developer program. Where to get the source-code is specified on the Adium Wiki. The patch can be downloaded from here (as a diff file).

Do you have anything to add to this subject? Perhaps you feel like Mac users are missing out on a wholly different IM client that doesn’t even require a fix. We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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3 Reasons To Keep Twenty-Ten Theme On Your New Wordpress Blog

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 10:31 AM PDT

twenty ten themeWordpress users are very familiar with the use of themes. They can easily change the appearance of their blog just by switching the themes. There are lots of available Wordpress themes out there and each comes with its own unique looks and features.

Strangely, among those thousands of third party themes, there were only two official themes that came with the Wordpress installation: Classic theme version 1.5 and Default theme version 1.6. To make things worse, those two official themes were also not too customizable.

But Wordpress developers wanted to change that. They have released the latest version of Wordpress – v 3.0 – along with a brand new highly-customizable official theme called the Twenty-Ten theme (maybe to commemorate the year of its release – 2010).

Let’s see what possibilities that the Twenty-Ten theme offers.

Whole Lotta Widgets

After upgrading to Wordpress 3.0, you’ll see the Twenty-Ten theme under the “Appearance” side menu. Activate the theme by clicking on the “Activate” link.

twenty ten theme

Then you can start the customization ritual by clicking the first menu under Theme: “Widgets“. Widgets in Wordpress are enhancements to a theme. You can use the widgets to add mini functionalities from a simple calendar to HTML codes.

twenty ten theme download

There are a bunch of widgets that you can use here. Those who live and breathe Wordpress will be familiar with them.

twenty ten theme download

But what makes widgets in Twenty-Ten special are the widget areas. Most themes give users one or two widget areas while here there are six of them.

twenty ten theme download

For Wordpress newbies, you can use widgets by dragging and dropping them onto the widget areas that you want. My personal favorite is the Text widget because you can put customizable codes here.

twenty ten wp theme

Just remember to hit the “Save” button after writing down the code.

Another nice thing about Wordpress 3.0 and Twenty-Ten in terms of widgets support is the existence of the “Inactive Widgets” area. In the previous version of Wordpress, deactivating a widget meant losing its settings. Now you can temporarily deactivate widgets while retaining their settings by dragging them to this area.

twenty ten wp theme

And when you want to re-activate them again, simply drag them back to the widgets area. You don’t have to do any re-settings.

What’s On The Menu?

The next item under “Appearance” is “Menus“. We have discussed this topic a little bit in the previous article. Basically, this feature allows you to add customized navigation to your blog page.

twenty ten wp theme

You can add a menu as a sub menu just by dragging and dropping it under another menu.

03b Menus and sub menus.jpg

Here’s what the menus look like in the blog page.

03c Menu and sub menu.jpg

Customizing The Background & Header

This feature might be a very common thing among avid Wordpress users who use themes heavily. Nonetheless, this is a welcome addition to enhancing Wordpress’s built in theme.

With Custom Background you can upload your chosen image.

04a Custom Background.jpg

And select the background color.

04b Background Color.jpg

While with Custom Header, you also can upload a header image. You can use the techniques explained in our older article to create your own Website Header Image.

05a Header Preview.jpg

The recommended size of the image is 980 X 198 pixels.

05b Header - Upload Image.jpg

Or you can use one of a range of web headers offered by Wordpress.

05c Header - Default Image.jpg

At the very bottom of this page, you will find options to remove and reset the image.

05d Header - Remove Restore.jpg

Don’t forget to click the “Save Changes” button to keep your settings.

To let you see what the Twenty-Ten theme looks like, here’s a blog quickly set up with the theme.

twenty ten theme

Twenty-Ten might not be as powerful as Constructor, but it’s good enough for most of us who don’t want to dig deeper for hidden features, but just want a ready-to-use good-looking theme. If you are still not sure about changing your blog theme to Twenty-Ten, you can try it first to see what will it look like. Use the tips from this article.

Have you tried Wordpress 3.0 and the Twenty-Ten theme? What’s your opinion about them? Please let us know in the comments below.

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The Top 5 OCR Spell Checking Tools

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 09:31 AM PDT

ocr spell checkingOptical Character Recognition (OCR) is the process of converting text captured in an image into a text document. This procedure is rarely flawless since little irregularities in the image, think of a newspaper scan, may cause the OCR software to make mistakes. Hence, spell checking is an indispensable step in completing any OCR job.

Unfortunately, most free OCR services do not provide an OCR spell checking feature. In this article I am going to introduce the best spell checking tools for post-processing OCR texts. This includes alternatives for existing tools that do not provide internal OCR spell checking.

Google Documents

Most OCR services will allow you to export the result to plain text. For further processing you can upload to Google Documents, which also comes with an internal spell checker. Unfortunately, the spell checker is very basic and doesn’t allow you to select languages or add words it’s missing.

ocr spell checking


SpellJax is an online spell checker. You can paste your text and have it check the spelling. Misspelled words are underlined in red. A left-click on the word opens a box with suggestions, but you can also enter your own correction or > OK the word in question.

ocr software

An alternative to SpellJax is SpellCheck.


Firefox comes with an internal spell checker that you can use to your advantage. Saikat wrote a very good article on How To Spell Check With The Firefox Dictionary.

Briefly, the Firefox spell checker is enabled by default and can be triggered under > Tools > Advanced > General > Check My Spelling As I Type. Misspelled words are underlined in red and right-clicking on them will provide suggestions from the dictionary. You can select > Add to Dictionary to teach the dictionary a new word.

You can also add new dictionaries. Right-click into a text box with more than one line, select > Languages and > Add Dictionaries… from the menu. This will take you to the Firefox dictionaries and language packs page. You’ll find more information about using the Firefox spell checker on this Mozilla page.

The Firefox spell checker comes in handy when you use an online OCR tool that presents the result in a text field, as for example Free OCR does. Firefox will instantly mark misspelled words and you can go ahead and correct them.

ocr software

For a more detailed review on Free OCR and two more tools, read my article 3 Online OCR Services To Convert Scanned Docs To Text.


The best solution of course is to use an OCR tool that comes with its own internal spell checker. TopOCR is one of them and it’s definitely top notch. It delivers a full-featured text editor that is a charm to work with. In addition, it has a built in spell checker that supports 11 languages.

Before you let the OCR do its magic you need to preset the language under > Settings > Language in the Image Window to the left. Per default the spell checking feature is turned off. In the Text Window go to > Other and put a checkmark infront of > Spell Check. Then go ahead and edit the text to your liking.

ocr spell checking

Saikat has previously reviewed the best OCR software in this article: Top 5 Free OCR Software Tools To Convert Images Into Text. Let me just mention that Simple OCR also comes with a spell checker. However, don’t bother, it’s a pain.

Microsoft Office

After extracting text from an image with Microsoft Office Document Imaging, you export the text to Microsoft Word. Here you can use the internal spell checker. The great advantage is that you can choose between many different languages and teach new words to the various dictionaries. So if you happen to own a copy of Microsoft Office, I absolutely recommend it for spell checking your OCR texts.

An obvious alternative to Microsoft Office is OpenOffice, which essentially comes with the same features as its commercial competitor. However, while OpenOffice does offer full featured spell checking, it does not offer OCR.

Which OCR spell checking app do you recommend?

Image Credit: mandiberg

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How To Open Specific Links With Other Browsers While Using Firefox

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 08:31 AM PDT

open link new browser windowI absolutely love Firefox and I have been using it as my full time browser for some time now. There are also a lot of times where I need to open a link in a new browser window like in Internet Explorer, or if I need to test a website for usability, I might need to test a page in several different browsers.

In the past you would open a link in a new browser window by opening the browser and browsing to the page you need to test or you could fire up a tool like Browsershots that we have previously profiled. But what if you want an easy way to tell Firefox to open that link in a different browser? Well now you can with a Firefox extension called Open With.

You can find the extension here.

When you arrive at the plug-in page you will see this:

open link new browser window

All you need to do is click on the Add to Firefox green button. You NEED to do this from inside Firefox. This will not work in any other browser. Once you have installed the extension and restarted Firefox, you will now be able to open a link in any of your installed browsers.

For each browser that you have installed on your machine, you will have a icon for each in your context menu. When the application is first installed it scans your machine to see what browsers are installed. I have Internet Explorer and Firefox on my machine. So now when I right click on a hyperlink I now see this in my context menu:

open browser in new window

Upon selecting the open link with Internet Explorer link it will do just that – open up the page in Internet Explorer.

Now you can do whatever you need to do from within your Internet Explorer window like Windows Updates or other sites Microsoft forces you to use IE on. When testing webpages in different browsers this makes it a breeze. I have tried other applications in the past like Corel IE Tab and the fact that you can get other browsers to work with this makes it simply awesome.

Let's take a look at the extension's options which you can get to by going to Tools –> Options –> Manage Add Ons –> Then click options under Open With. That will bring us to this screen:

open browser in new window

You can choose between buttons or menu items for each of the display options which is no big deal but the manual entries menu tab makes this application a lot more powerful. Some online users reported Open With having problems with browsers after they were updated. If you run into these issues drop on by here:

open browser in new window

Browser to the browser of your choice and you will be able to name it and set how it launches your browser (you can use switches!)


To add switches or edit the command it will use to launch your browser all you need to do is highlight the browser you want to modify and hit edit command and that will allow you to modify the line.

open link new browser window

Do you have another application that helps you easily use other browsers? We would love to hear about them in the comments!

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