Productivity Tools – Create Yahoo Pipes to Boost Personal Productivity

On every Monday I review web apps and share tips of productivity and work management.  SUBSCRIBE to RSS feed or email updates to know more!

Last week I wrote a post about using ifttt to boost personal productivity.  What ifttt does is automating information gathering and processing to ease your life.  Today I want to introduce another web automation tool, Yahoo Pipes, which is another powerful tool I use daily.

 

Yahoo! Pipes – Automate Your Online Life

Yahoo! Pipes is an online tool that helps users to compose their own recipes of automated process.  You do this by linking different standard modules to create a complete process.  There are many different types of modules available in Yahoo! Pipes.  They are grouped under the following types:

  • Sources
  • User Inputs
  • Operators
  • URL
  • String
  • Date
  • Location
  • Number
  • Deprecated

It is not difficult to understand what these modules do.  Obviously Sources modules help to pull data from web sites.  Location and URL modules collect location and web site address information, Date gets the date and time, etc.  Some modules are interactive that they obtains input from the pipe creator or user.

 

Yahoo! Pipes – Create Your First Pipe

Using Yahoo! Pipes is not as easy as using ifttt, but it is not difficult at all.  I found this video that you may want to watch:

Let me show you the whole process by screenshots.  Let’s say, tech geek Tom subscribed to a number of RSS feeds of different tech blogs (including Cloud High Club of course!).  He wants to combine these RSS feeds into one feed so that he does not need to subscribe to the same list of feeds in all his feed readers on the computer, tablet and smartphone.  So he goes to Yahoo! Pipes.

Yahoo Pipes - Create Pipe

Tom clicked Fetch Site Feed on the left sidebar, copied the RSS feeds and paste into the URL fields.  Then he linked the “Fetch Site Feed” box to the “Pipe Output” box by dragging one node to another.  He then clicked Save and “Run Pipe…” to generate the pipe.

Yahoo Pipes - Pipe Created

Bang!  It’s done.  A new feed containing the contents of all feeds Tom inputted is created.  He can enter this feed URL into any feed reader.

Yahoo! Pipes is certainly more than this.  Instead of demonstrating all its features to you one by one, let’s just show you some pipes created by other users.

…and much more.  There are many pipes that other users created and made public that you can use.  Once you found a great one, you can copy it and make it yours by clicking “Clone”.

Yahoo! Pipes ia a very useful tool to save people’s time spent on finding and processing information.  It just lacks a nice-looking user interface.  Try it for a few times and you would gradually pick up and enjoy using this intelligent system.

 

Yahoo! Pipes: http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/

Free Virus Scan Online – 3 Recommended Web Apps

Virus scanning should not be new to computer users.  Although non-Windows computers are less susceptible to virus infection (e.g. I mainly use Chromebook and Mac at home), there are times when we need to send files to friends and worry that they may contain virus.  You may not want to find an anti-virus software to check the files.  Now, what I am going to introduce could help you.  They are 3 web apps providing free virus scan online.

 

VirusTotal – Free Virus Scan Online For Individual File

VirusTotal is a web site where you can scan individual files.  You can either upload a file or point the web app to an online file by entering its URL.  The file would then be scanned for virus using over 40 anti-virus software.  Yes, over 40.  So this web app leverages the power of other anti-virus apps.

VirusTotal - Free Virus Scan Online

The result from each anti-virus software is listed on the results page and a summary.  In the example below, none of the 41 software caught any virus, so I could pretty much believe that the file is free from infection.

VirusTotal - Free Virus Scan Online - Scan Results

You can see a VT Community box on the right in the above picture.  Other VirusTotal users can leave comment about the file they scanned.  If so happen the file you submit for scanning was submitted by others before, you could find what these people thought about it.  Besides, the system allows you to skip the scanning if you think you can trust the last scan result.  This little feature is quite useful.

VirusTotal - Free Virus Scan Online - File Submitted Before

This web app works as browser extension and add-on as well.  There is a Chrome extension and a Firefox add-on.  The only drawback is perhaps the 20MB file size limit.  It is quite normal for users to download large multimedia files and need a virus scan before opening the file.

 

Official Site: http://www.virustotal.com

Chrome Extension: https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/efbjojhplkelaegfbieplglfidafgoka

Firefox Add-on: http://virustotal.hispasecsistemas.netdna-cdn.com/progs/vtzilla.xpi

 

BitDefender – Free Virus Scan Online For System

BitDefender works the other way.  It does not scan individual files, but your system.  It only scans the memory and files loaded when the system starts.  Inactive files are NOT checked.  By using VirusTotal and BitDefender together, you can get an almost complete anti-virus solution.

Bitdefender - Free Virus Scan Online - Scan Result

This virus scanner is also available as Chrome extension and Firefox add-on.  Besides, you can put a widget on your iGogole page or web site.

Bitdefender - Free Virus Scan Online - Extensions and Widgets

Official Site: http://www.bitdefender.com/scanner/online/free.html

Extensions and Widgets: http://quickscan.bitdefender.com/

 

ESET Online Scanner – Free Virus Scan Online With Quarantine

ESET Free Virus Scan Online

Probably many people have heard of ESET’s NOD32 Antivirus software before.  This online scanner comes from the same company, but it is limited to online scanning and users cannot do much configurations.  According to the official site, this online scanner scans like NOD32 with the following options.  I do not use this software so I cannot comment on what these options are about but you can test the web app by yourself.

 

/ADWARE, /AH, /ALL,/ARCH+, /MAILBOX+, /PACK+, /SCANBOOT-, /UNSAFE and /UNWANTED

 

This online scanner is recommended because it uses the same virus definition of NOD32, which is a software that many users found useful.  Besides, some features of the NOD32 scanner are also included, such as the ability to put infected files in quarantine.

One (big) drawback of this scanner is that it only works in Windows.  If you use Internet Explorer with Active-X enabled the scanner could be directly fired up, otherwise a ESET Smart Installer must be installed beforehand.

Official Site: http://www.eset.com/home/products/online-scanner/

The Best FREE Imaging and Graphics Web Apps, Picnik, Sketchpad and Sumo Paint

It’s Productivity Monday!  Every Monday I review web apps and share tips of productivity and work management.  SUBSCRIBE to RSS feed or email updates to know more!

From time to time I need to process images in my office but the only tool installed in the Windows 7 computer is Paint.  Luckily there are many FREE web apps that are as much as (or even more) powerful than many professional and paid local apps for Windows.  In this post I’ll introduce 3 of the best imaging and graphics web apps for Chrome.

Picnik

Picnik Chrome Web App for Photo Editing

 

Picnik is my favorite if I need to do a quick editing of photos.  It provides the basic features such as crop, rotate, exposure, color adjustment, sharpen and resize.  There are many filters you can apply, apart the common ones such as pixelize, lomo, pencil sketch etc., there are some featured effects such as Halloween-related ones.  Other than adjusting the photos, you can add text, stickers (pre-set images applied on your photo) and frames.

Picnik Effects

I think it basically covered most of the common photo editing needs of ordinary users.  And the user interface is easy to use.  Most settings could be made by sliders or one to two clicks.

Edited photos could be saved as JPG and PNG (quality settings applicable).  Alternatively, you can directly publish the photo to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Photobucket right from Picnik.  This web app works on Chromebook, I frequently use in on my Cr-48.  Its curent user count is over 500,000 as shown on Chrome Web Store.

In Chrome Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/inmnggcpelemfookhlhkdfbechcdadfp

Non-Chrome Users Go Here: http://www.picnik.com/

 

Sketchpad

If you love graffiti or doodling, Sketchpad is an app you must try.

Sketchpad Chrome Web App

It has a wide range of brushes and details settings of each brush.  There are also stamps and patterns that you can apply to create your unique painting.

It is not a photo editing app but a paining tool.  If you enjoy creating your paint this is your app.  It’s current user number is around 170,000 worldwide.

In Chrome Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/lkllajgbhondgjjnhmmgbjndmogapinp

Non-Chrome Users: http://mugtug.com/sketchpad/

 

Sumo Paint

To do some serious image processing, I choose Sumo Paint.  It can perform most of the tasks that people do with Photoshop.  Unless you need those professional-only tools, Sumo Paint is a one-stop solution.

Sumo Paint Chrome Web App

Paint, ink, fill, selection, stamp… all basic tools are available.  You certainly can use layers as how you use them in Photoshop.  Flip, mirror, crop, resize, layer effects, color adjustment, filters… not only are these tools included, they work just like other desktop imaging software.  You don’t have to spend hours to learn before using Sumo Paint.  It has over 30,000 users.

In Chrome Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/dpgjihldbpodlmnjolekemlfbcajnmod

Non-Chrome Users: http://www.sumopaint.com/app/

[chrome web app] 5 offline productivity apps (Part 1)

It’s Monday!  On every Monday I review web apps and share tips of productivity and work management.  SUBSCRIBE to RSS feed or email updates to know more!

We Chromebook and Chrome users love web apps a lot, but we also hate them (occasionally) because most of them only works online.  I have pointed out this being a major drawback of Chromebook and Chrome OS in my previous posts, 9 Reasons why you shouldn’t buy a Chromebook and 5 things Chrome OS should learn from Joli OS.

But things could change.  We gradually see more and more offline web apps emerged in the Chrome Web Store.  In this article I’ll introduce 5 productivity and work related web apps that work without internet connection.  Choices are certainly endless, do let us know your favorite by leaving a comment here!

Offline Google Mail

This is not the first time Google made its services work offline.  In the past it was done through Google Gears.  Earlier this year many of these offline features were pulled down to prepare for a new stage of offline working enabled by HTML5.  This September we begin to see the results and this Offline Google Mail web app is one of them.

Offline GMail

It’s not just a hyperlink to Google Mail.  It can run as a background app in your computer and notify you whenever you receive a new mail.  Every time you run it on Chrome it synchronizes the internet and the storage in your computer so that you read the freshest emails even when internet connection stopped.  It also brings a tablet-like user interface which maximizes the use of screen real estate.

Offline GMail - Background App

This app is far from perfect, though.  A much complained missing feature is access to Contacts when offline.  Contacts are as important as emails for mobile workers.  Some other features on (my) wish list are keyboard shortcuts, caching of attachments, tasks integration…  After all it’s a good start, please work hard Google guys!

 

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