Stick notes on your desktop and get reminders with Alarm Stickies 3

Alarm Stickies 3 is a freeware application that displays sticky notes on your desktop. It also has a reminder functionality, hence the “alarm” in the name.

Stick notes on your desktop and get reminders with Alarm Stickies 3

The program starts in the tray; click on its icon to create your first sticky note. You can also do this with the keyboard shortcut: Control + P. A small window should appear where you can enter your note. The note editor displays the date and time when you created the note and notes stay on top of other windows.

See that arrow icon in the corner? If it’s green, it’s an active note which means that you can type in it. That’s useful, if you want to edit it. But if it’s purple, it’s a sticky note that’s being displayed over other notes. You can move stickies around the screen by moving the mouse over the top or bottom center and dragging them to the location you want to place them at.

You can change the background color of a sticky note by pressing Ctrl + C. Alarm Stickies 3 supports many keyboard shortcuts which you can customize. Of course, you can have as many sticky notes you want. But do remember, they stay on top of other windows, so you may want to resize them by dragging them to a location where they don’t interfere with your work.

So, how do you save notes? Drag a sticky to either side of your screen to preserve the note’s data. However, if you drag it towards the bottom it deletes the note forever.

The sticky note widgets are not displayed when you exit the program or hide them. You can however view them by right-clicking the tray icon and selecting “List of stickies with alerts” or “List of outdated stickies”. This opens up a window that lists your notes, and you can copy a note just by clicking on it. This isn’t convenient, but the notes aren’t lost. Stickies with alerts can be restored by clicking the “Modify” button.

Setting alerts

Create a sticky note, type something and hit the F8 key. This creates an alert, i.e. a reminder.

Alarm Stickies 3 set an alert

You can optionally enable an alert sound from the “Sound Settings” window. There are two options to choose from: single time alert sound or continuous sound. Click on the sticky that has the alert to mute it. The program comes with four built-in sounds that you can pick from for the alert. When the alert is triggered, two things happen: The sticky note associated with the alert is automatically centered on the screen and the sound is played.

Alarm Stickies 3 set an alert sound

Alerts will work even if the note isn’t stickied, i.e. if you dragged it to the side to close it, the alert will be triggered when time and date criteria are met.

Calendar

Alarm Stickies 3 calendar

Alarm Stickies 3 has a built-in quarterly calendar. Click on a future date to create an alert.

Recurrences

Save birthdays, anniversaries and other recurring dates from the “Recurrences” window. The program can be set to notify you when the date criteria is met. Or you can set a custom notification to be alerted a few days in advance.

Alarm Stickies 3 recurrences

The application is not portable.

Note: The program doesn’t play well with date formats other than the US format (mm-dd-yyyy). I tried using other formats from the settings, but noticed that trying to set an alert or clicking the modify/delete button in the “list of stickies” crashes the application. The only workaround for this is to use the US date format in Alarm Stickies 3’s settings. This does not affect the date format used by Windows.

Alarm Stickies 3 works fine if you use it for everyday notes. But the lack of support for automatically displaying previous notes is kind of a let down.

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Hekapad is a text editor that can encrypt text, has a built-in clipboard and more

Hekapad isn’t your average text editor; it has a few built-in tools that are unique or quirky in their own way.

Hekapad is a text editor that can encrypt text, has a built-in clipboard and more

The program’s GUI is fairly simple: a toolbar and a menubar are at the top, and a status bar is visible on the bottom of the screen, and the big blank area is the editor workspace.

Hekapad uses tabs to load documents and this allows you to open several documents and switch between them seamlessly. The import option in the file menu can be used to append a document to the current document which may be useful to some.

The Edit menu has a couple of interesting options, such as Cryptography. Hekapad can encrypt text and you can choose from three strengths: Simple, Standard and Advanced. Simple is the least secure of the three, and randomizes the text but the number of characters remains the same. For e.g. “ghacks” becomes “klegow”.

Hekapad encryption

Standard uses AES-256 bit encryption that uses a long string to secure the text. Same example, but this time “ghacks” becomes “Kwvo4GD5+vr+N/X4jp7gVQ==”. That’s quite impressive. Advanced encryption does the same, but uses a custom key for securing the content, aka a password. This is the best form of encryption as the text cannot be accessed by others without the password. Use the Decryption menu to select the correct decryption level, to access the text.

Hekapad dual clipboard

The “Go to line” option jumps to the line or word or character that you specify. Hekapad has a built-in clipboard tool which can be accessed from the Edit menu. You can save up to 5 clips using the keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + 1. Replace 1 with a number between 2-5 for the other clipboard items. To paste the item use Alt + Shift + the number of the snippet or use the right-click menu. The clipboard is cleared upon exiting the program.

Hekapad symbols

The Insert menu has a few useful options like adding the current date and time, symbols (Copyright, Trademark, Curly Brackets, Bullet, Tilde and Registered), and currency symbols for Euro, Dollar, Yen, Pound, Ruble and Cent (€, $, ¥, £, ₽ and ¢). You can mark documents as favorites, and access them quickly from the favorites menu.

The application picks up the first line of the document and offers it as the filename when you click on the save option. According to the official website Hekapad saves a backup of the document in case it crashes, and offers to restore it when you restart the program. I couldn’t get it to crash so I can’t confirm this claim.

Head to the Tools menu and you’ll find an option to set the opacity of Hekapad’s interface. This is rather unique and cool, though I don’t see it as a practical feature. I did however like the “Always on top” option that sticks the window on top of other programs. The full screen view removes the title bar, though it does display the Windows Taskbar and tray. The themes section has two options: small and big, and these resize the icons on the toolbar.

hekapad context menu

The drop-down menu at the end of the toolbar lets you switch to Text, HTML, CSS, XML, and PHP. Hekapad supports syntax-highlighting for programming languages. Select some text and right-click on it to convert it to UPPERCASE, lowercase, iNVERTED cASE, Capitalized case, Sentence case, Alternate case (cAsE). Perform an online search by highlighting text and selecting Google, Bing, YouTube, Yahoo, Wikipedia, DuckDuckGo or IMDB from the Search menu, it opens a search tab in your default browser.

Hekapad supports the following file formats: Txt, 1st, ASP, BAT, C, CPP, CSS, CUE, HTM, HTML, INF, INI, JS, LOG, NFO, PHP, RESX, SRT, SUB, VB, and XML.

The application is good, but isn’t devoid of some minor bugs. My major complaint is that it is a bit slow to start. The second issue is related to the fonts, no matter what I tried it wouldn’t reflect the font type, style and size that I set. Since, the default font size is too small, I had to use zoom in/out to bypass the issue, and the program supports a custom zoom level on a per-document basis. An option to rearrange the tabs would be good.

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Minimize any program to the system tray with MinimizeToTray

Having a bunch of programs opened at the same time can affect your productivity, especially if you’re constantly alt + tabbing between some of those. The taskbar does a better job, but having to locate each program’s icon and switch to may not be easier all the time.

Minimize any program window to the system tray with MinimizeToTray

Want to minimize some programs to the system tray instead? That’s what MinimizeToTray does. Don’t confuse this program with the popular Thunderbird extension of the same name, and though you can use it for the same purpose, you’re better off with ThunderBirdTray.

MinimizeToTray is a Windows program. The program is open source and portable. Extract the archive, run the EXE and it opens as a tray application. Switch to the window that you want to minimize to the tray, and use the hotkey Alt + F1; this will hide the current window from view.

This method also works with the Windows Task Bar, though I wouldn’t really recommend using this. You can minimize several applications to the tray,  but you’ll need to use the hotkey for each program’s window. Once the applications are minimized to the tray, they are inaccessible via Alt + Tab. Don’t worry they are still running in the background.

While testing it with various windows, I noticed that it wouldn’t minimize Windows’ Task Manager to the tray. The quick manual option in the program’s tray menu explains why. Programs that were opened with elevated privileges cannot be hidden through normal means using MinimizeToTray. You’ll need to run the application with administrator rights to force other admin-elevated programs to minimize to the tray. Since Task Manager is a system application, it’s running with administrator privileges. Opening MinimizeToTray as an administrator allowed sending the program to the tray.

MinimizeToTray restore all windows

To restore a minimized window, use the key combo Alt + F2. There is another way to restore minimized windows, and that’s by using the MinimizeToTray icon. Right-click on it to view the list of hidden windows. Mouse over the program that you want to restore, and left-click on it. If you have hidden more than one window, you can use the F10 key to restore them all at once. Or use the tray icon’s “Restore all Windows” option.

The program’s system tray icon has an Options menu that lists two settings. The first option is used to force “Alt + F4” exit the window’s process, the program’s default exit shortcut is Shift + Escape. The other option, when enabled, will restore all hidden windows when you close MiniMizeToTray.

MinimizeToTray options

The program does not save its settings, i.e. there is no INI file. While that can be a good thing, what this also implies is that unfortunately there is no option to customize the keyboard shortcuts.

MinimizeToTray is a script written using AutoIT. If you read our review of Batch Image Cropper, you’re probably aware that antivirus programs tend to flag AutoIT scripts as malware. These are usually false positives, and that seems to be the same case with the tray application. VirusTotal reports 6 detections and 3 of those are low confidence (low number of users) ratings. Major antivirus vendors have given it a clean chit. Head to the GitHub page and click on “MinimizeToTray.au3” to view the source code of the script.

The program works well but the keyboard shortcuts could’ve been better, they aren’t exactly easy to reach while typing.

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Filelight is an open source disk space analyzer for Linux and Windows

What do you do when you’re running low on storage space? I run disk cleanup to clear the updates and system files, purge the browser data, and if that doesn’t help I use a program like SpaceSniffer or WizTree.

Filelight is an open source disk space analyzer for Linux and Windows

That’s on Windows of course. For a cross-platform solution, you can use something like Filelight; this is a KDE application that was officially ported to Windows. The start screen of Filelight displays a circle for each hard drive and partition. The colored part of the ring shows the used space and the white areas indicates the free space on the drive. Mouse over the colors to view the storage information in Gigabytes.

Filelight demo

Clicking on one of the rings initiates a scan of the selected drive. A nice pie animation is displayed that also acts as the progress indicator.

Hit the stop button on the toolbar to cancel the scanning process. You can also analyze the storage space used by a folder (and it’s sub-folders) by using the open button on the toolbar or the Scan menu option. A third way to run a scan is by using the address bar at the top of the screen.

Filelight linux version

The time taken for the scan to complete depends on various factors such as the total storage capacity of the drive, the amount of used space, and also the drive’s read speed. When the scan completes you will see a set of colorful concentric rings; this is the file map. Each color represents various folders, while the gray represent files.

Hovering over a ring (segment) displays the name of the folder that it represents and the total disk size of that directory. Moving the cursor away from a folder (inner ring) to the outer ones shows the details about sub-folders that it contains. This way, you can quickly find out what’s taking up a lot of storage space.

Click any folder or sub-folder to view its own set of rings. Use the back/forward or up buttons (also available from the Go menu) to navigate between the views. Optionally, you can use the Zoom In and Out options under the View menu for  increasing/decreasing the view. The rescan option may be useful when you move something to a different directory, and wish to view the results of the current storage space.

Context menu

Right-click on a folder ring to open it in the File Manager/Explorer, or to open a command window in the selected location. Left click on a file to open it in its default handler program. That’s useful in case you want to preview it, before you decide to delete it to recover some storage space.

Filelight context menu

The Settings > configure Filelight menu can be used to access the program’s settings. The “Scanning” tab lets you exclude folders that you don’t want to be scanned. The “Appearance” tab can be used to customize the font size and to change the color scheme of the application.

Personally, I like the Rainbow theme but if you prefer something light or dark, use the High Contrast theme or System colors. Anti-aliasing is enabled by default, but can be toggled if you want the jagged-edge look.

Filelight linux settings

Filelight is available in a standalone version like all KDE’s programs on the Binary Factory portal. It’s also available on the Windows Store, should you want that. The versions are identical, except for the fact that the Store version is behind on updates.

Filelight windows store and standalone program

(Windows Store version on the left, installer version to the right)

Linux users can install it via the KDE Discover software manager. If you don’t have it, just run the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt install plasma-discover

You can then install Filelight or other KDE apps on your distro.

Filelight isn’t as fast as WizTree, but it offers a better visual representation of the used storage space, and in that sense a lot more user-friendly.

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MP4Tools is an open source set of utilities for merging or splitting video files

Video editing can be an awfully complicated task if you’re not using the right tools. If all you need is to simply join, or cut some videos, what you may need is a simple program.

MP4Tools is an open source set of utilities for merging or splitting video files

MP4Tools does precisely that. It comes with two independent modules: MP4Joiner and MP4Splitter. MP4Joiner can join (or merge) two or more videos into a single MP4 file. MP4Splitter does the opposite, i.e. it splits it into several files.

MP4Joiner

The application has a toolbar at the top that lets you add or remove videos from the queue. Despite being called MP4Joiner, the program does support a few additional video formats: MP4, M4V, TS, AVI and MOV.

MP4Joiner merge videos

One you add some videos to be merged, you will see the media information in the large blank pane below the toolbar. This includes the video’s path, duration, size, codec, resolution and aspect ratio. Use the arrow buttons towards the right edge of the screen to re-order the videos.

MP4Joiner video cutter

Right-click on a video to remove or sort it, but more importantly it has a “Cut Video” option. Using it allows you to use the built-in video cutter. This tool is very easy to use, just the start and end time positions and click ok. The video won’t be cut immediately, but the change will be processed during the merge operation.

MP4Joiner video cut and merge

The statusbar at the bottom of the interface shows you what the total duration and size of the output video will be. Observe the status bar and you’ll see that I have cut one of the videos, so the output video is shorter and its file size is correspondingly smaller. Click the options button at the top to modify the output settings. You can use it to set the audio bitrate, sample rate, video constant rate factor, preset, etc.

Hit the “Join” button on the toolbar and MP4Joiner will open a save dialog box prompting you to choose the video’s name and location. Clicking save begins the media merging process.

MP4Joiner video merge process
MP4Joiner video merge test 2
MP4Joiner video merge test 3
MP4Joiner video merge test 4

The selected video files are re-encoded and saved as one video. The time taken for the merging process to complete depends on the video’s resolution and size. When I merged two short 4K videos it took over a minute and a half, merging 720p videos (about 768MB) took nearly 10 minutes and the CPU usage was quite high. Do note that these were done with multiple applications running in the background. Further tests which included SD, smaller HD videos resulted in faster merging speeds and lower CPU usage.

MP4Splitter

The interface is a bit different, but the program is quite user-friendly. The “Open Video” button is used to load a video. MP4Splitter supports the following video formats: MP4, AVI, MKV, MOV, MPEG, MPG, MTS, OGG, OGM, WEBM and WMV.

MP4 Splitter

When a video is loaded, the program displays a preview of it in the left pane. Use the play button to view the video. Use the slider or the timer to pick the point from which the video has to be split, and click on the “Add split point” option. This will split the video into two parts, splitting it at the time you have selected. You can of course create more split points to break it down further.

MP4 Splitter test
MP4 Splitter test2

Note: The application kept crashing when the play button was used. But it works just fine when adding split points, and the split process was successful. I’m not sure why it crashed, especially since the preview panel displayed the frames of the split points correctly. A quick search on the program’s SourceForge page revealed a similar issue reported by a user. This suggests that it could be a bug in the latest version.

The sidebar on the right lists your split points, and you may remove the ones you don’t want. Clicking the “Start Splitting” button will prompt you to select a folder where the output videos will be saved in. When you select the folder, video splitting process will begin, wait until its complete and the videos will be ready to use. MP4Splitter was surprisingly faster than the joiner tool, even when working 1080p 60fps videos.

Both programs in the MP4Tools suite use FFMPEG for encoding videos. MP4Tools is a 32-bit software. It is available for Windows and macOS. Linux users will have to compile it from the source code. It is not a portable application.

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