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Apps we love

Skitch (tested v1.0b8.1)
Screenshot and webcam capture utility
Developer: Plasq
OS: Mac (OS X 10.4.6 Tiger or above)
Price: Free

There is a great divide between Grab, the screenshot application built into OS X, and image editors like Photoshop. On the one hand, Grab is very easy to use and practically invisible, but limited in scope. On the other hand, Photoshop has powerful editing tools for manipulating images, but requires a lot of resources to run and can't take screenshots on its own. If you want to combine the merits of both programs, you had to take a screenshot using Grab and then import it into Photoshop — a less than elegant workflow.

Skitch is a screenshot tool that offers a middle ground. It's a simple way to take a screenshot or snap a photo from your webcam, edit and annotate the image, and send it effortlessly to friends or upload it to the Web. Much like Grab, Skitch can capture the entire screen as well as a user-defined area or an individual window. It's what Skitch does afterwards that sets it apart.

It's easy to send your image wherever you want, thanks to a drag-and-drop tab that lets you place the screenshot in an e-mail via Mail or a chat program like iChat without having to save to disk first. And if you need to add a little extra info or a small sketch, Skitch has a number of drawing and annotation tools as well. You can even move your drawings and text around without affecting the original image. Skitch is versatile enough that you may never need to open an editor to edit a screenshot again.

PowerResizer (tested v0.9)
Window manager
Developer: Federico Bastianello
OS: Windows
Price: Free

One of the Windows 7 features that caught the eye of many an early adopter was the slick new window management system that allowed users to quickly rearrange windows in novel ways. Simply grab a window and move it off an edge of the screen, and it would expand to fill the corresponding screen half. Move one window off the left edge of the screen and another off the right, and voila — two windows, tiled side by side, and without having to dig into context menus or perform precision mouse acrobatics.

That's wonderful if you're already using the Windows 7 release candidate, but not everyone is so brave. PowerResizer allows you to resize windows in XP or Vista by dragging them to screen edges, just like Windows 7. But the utility can handle more complex window arrangements as well. When moving a window, you can press one of several hotkeys to immediately resize and anchor the window to a side or corner of the screen. If you then tile several windows such that their edges meet, you can resize one of the windows and the others will automatically resize to keep the configuration intact — really handy when one window needs to be larger than the others and resizing each window would be tedious.

Sadly, you have to dig through the README file to learn the hotkeys, as there is no built-in help system and you can't customize the hotkeys. But other than this forgivable omission, PowerResizer is a no-fuss way to easily tile your windows for more efficient multitasking.

Long URL Please (tested v0.4.0)
Short URL translator
Developer: Peel Me a Grape
OS: Windows/Mac/Linux (via Firefox)
Price: Free

In recent years, the Internet has rediscovered the joys of brevity. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, short message services are in vogue. A side effect of this resurgence is the return of short URL services like They were originally designed to take extremely long, unwieldy addresses — often mangled by web forums and desktop e-mail clients — and turn them into much shorter and convenient URLs.

Short URLs are crucial to the success of micromessaging web applications; without them, pasting URLs inside a 140-character limit would be impossible. But there's a catch: short URLs obfuscate the identity of the destination, meaning they can in theory be used to trick people into thinking a link leads somewhere safe when in reality it doesn't. Moreover, some people just don't like clicking on links they can't identify, even if they're not worried about security.

Long URL Please is a Firefox extension that can convert short URLs back into their original form, making it easy to discover the true nature of all the links you see in Facebook status messages, Twitter feeds and forum posts. Currently the extension and the underlying service (which can be accessed by other browsers manually) support 65 URL shortening sites, but inevitably some fall through the cracks and remain obfuscated. Nevertheless, if you're one of the many people who reads Twitter in their browser and you're tired of not knowing where everyone's links go, Long URL Please is the answer.

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