Ten Things to Help You Start 2010
Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.
If you'd like to take some writing courses online but don't have $$$ to spare, check out this page of 50+ Open Courseware Writing Classes from the World's Leading Universities.
Need some new business cards? You can design and generate them online with DeGraeve.com's Business Card Generator (it will generate a .pdf with 12 ready-to-print copies of your design.)
FlashNote is "just a rough copy for your quick work with any text information. Just when you need a rough copy to save or to process some pieces of a text, here is Flashnote – small, quick and convenient. You just have to press the shortcut combination and in a flash of a second you will have your rough copy before you. This done press ESC and the program hides. Everything can be done quicker, simpler and in a more convenient way" (OS: Win 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)
Also from DeGraeve.com, the Invent-a-Word online generator is a fun but also useful tool when you need to coin compound words (the example given is travel + velocity = travelocity.) I put in PBW, set the overlap at 1 and made it a prefix, and got 1,163 results (which I also promise never to inflict on you, no matter how often I am tempted to pbwaffle, pbwhine or pbwhistle.)
Display tinter ScreenShades is for "Users with sensitive eyes" who "might prefer to tone down the display because it hurts their eyes. Apple provides keyboard controls to control backlighting. Screen Shades lets you tint the entire screen" (OS: Mac OS 10.2 or later)
SpeedReading was "developed to help you determine your reading skills and explore one way to improve your reading speed and comprehension. The average reader reads at about 200 words per minute (wpm) with a typical comprehension of 60%. The top 1% of readers do much better, reading at more than 1000 wpm with a comprehension of 85%. Such highspeed reading requires serious concentration. This application lets you try reading by looking at two midpoints on each line and continuing to move forward without going back and re-reading. Ten text sources are included. You can adjust the speed of the moving window from approximately 200 wpm to 1500 wpm in three ranges (slow, medium, and fast). A slider is provided to adjust the speed within each range" (OS: Windows XP, Mac OS 10.2 or later; also see later versions SpeedReading II and SpeedReading III)
People like me who sometimes see text on a computer monitor "dancing" may be suffering from Irlen Syndrome (aka Scotopic Sensitivity.) If this is a constant problem for you, you may want to check out this UK site and freeware: T-Bar is a coloured bar which you can either drag around the screen or lock to your mouse. It can have ruled lines or not, depending on your preference. The colour can be chosen from pre-defined options, then tweaked by altering the red, green or blue sliders to get the perfect colour, the transparency level can be adjusted, again to suit the individual. All the settings are saved between sessions, so there is no need to readjust the next time you use it.
The Windows Speech Recognition Macros Tool (or WSR Macros for short) "extends the usefulness of the speech recognition capabilities in Windows Vista. Users can create powerful macros that are triggered by spoken commands. These macros can perform a variety of tasks ranging from simply inserting your mailing address to having full speech-control over your windows media player library" (OS: Windows Vista)
Blogger and Technical Evangelist (love that title) Mike Swanson has put together a free Windows 7 Theme Pack which contains "20 hand-picked, nature-themed macro photos that I've taken over the years. The desktop images are configured to shuffle randomly every 30 minutes. Otherwise, the theme uses the default Windows 7 color and sound schemes" (OS: Windows 7)
Zotero is "a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself" (OS: Firefox 3.0 for Windows, Mac, or Linux)