Putting the Caps Lock button to good use with Enso 2.0 Launcher Prototype

enso launcher

All keyboards have a CAPS Lock button, but how often do you actually use it? If you’re like me, you probably press it accidentally more than you press it on purpose. What if you could put that button to good use? Wouldn’t that be great?

Unless you’ve just installed a fresh copy of Windows XP, chances are your Start Menu is a ridiculously large list. As you install applications over time, it becomes more and more difficult to find the one you want! What if there was an easier, faster way to launch applications? Wouldn’t that be great?

Humanized’s Enso 2.0 Launcher Prototype solves both of these problems at once.

I’ve been using a launch utility called Launchy for quite a while now, but the latest version has been nothing but trouble for me. It uses far too much memory and CPU, and most of the useful plugins from the old version don’t work in 2.0. So I went looking for something better (to be clear, this is far less of an issue on Vista thanks to the search functionality of the Start Menu).

Eventually I came across Enso. I noticed that there was a new “prototype” version out, and decided to download that instead of the stable release. I’m glad I did! Enso 2.0 Launcher Prototype runs in the background, and is summoned simply by holding down the CAPS lock button.

It’s important to note “holding down the CAPS lock button”. One of the unique things about Enso is that it is quasimodal – as soon as you let go of the CAPS lock button, it disappears. The way most applications work is with a hotkey, they are modal – press the button and the window appears until you get rid of it. You can read more about that here. It might seem awkward at first, but it actually makes a ton of sense and is pretty easy to get used to.

enso 2

I guess Enso 2.0 is actually quasimodal and modal…that is, you hold CAPS to open Enso, and type the “open” command to get the modal box shown above.

Enso does more than just launch applications, websites, files and directories. It has some other handy commands such as “uppercase” which will convert whatever text is selected into uppercase letters. It can also do things like calculate “2+2”. More than a launcher, Enso is a command system.

My only complaints thus far are that Enso seems to launch after everything else does on system startup, and occasionally it crashes. It’s definitely solid enough for day-to-day use though.

If you’re looking for an excellent launch utility, give Enso 2.0 a shot, and put your CAPS lock button to good use! (for the record, you can configure it to use a different key)

Notepad2: My favorite text editor!

notepad If there’s one thing you can count on having when you sit down at a Windows machine, it’s Notepad. The trusty little text editor even comes with the massively stripped-down Server Core edition of Windows Server 2008! Sometimes though, don’t you wish Notepad did just a little bit more? I used to, until I found the absolutely wonderful Notepad2.

Notepad2 looks a lot like Notepad, but it manages to include a ton of useful features while still remaining small and extremely quick. Here’s what it looks like on my Vista machine (sized down to fit):


Notepad2 includes the following main features:

  • Syntax highlighting for lots of different programming languages and file formats (C# shown above)
  • Bracket matching
  • Encoding and newline conversion
  • Regular-expression search and replace

There are lots of really useful smaller features too, such as the zoom buttons on the toolbar, bookmarks, and favorites. I also really like the fact that there’s a “Read Only” item on the File menu that toggles the read only status of the file – super handy.

read only

There’s more information on Notepad2 at Wikipedia.

The download is less than 250 KB and there’s nothing to install. You can also download the source if you like. If English isn’t your language, there are 14 translated versions available.

If you do decide to download Notepad2, my advice would be to stick it in your C:WindowsSystem32 folder. That way, you can just type “notepad2” in the Run command or on any command line, and it’ll open. You should also add Notepad2 to your explorer context menu, so that when you right-click on a file, there’s an item to open it in Notepad2:

notepad2 open

To do that, download this zip file, extract it, right-click on the .reg file, and choose Merge. If you put Notepad2 somewhere other than the folder I mentioned above, edit the contents of the .reg file first.

Trust me, after you get used to using Notepad2, you’ll miss it dearly when you have to use a machine that only has Notepad. I stick Notepad2 (and the .reg file) on every USB key I have, so that I’ve always got it with me – that’s how much I love it!

Download Notepad2 from flo’s freeware

7-Zip: My favorite file archive tool!

7-zip As a self-described geek, I often have friends and colleagues ask me for advice on what tools they should be using. For example, when someone sets up a new computer, they often need some sort of tool for working with zip files, because the tool built into Windows XP leaves much to be desired.

WinZip is probably the most popular file compression utility, and WinRAR is also really common. My favorite though, without a doubt, is an open-source tool called 7-Zip.

7-Zip does everything you’d expect it to and more! And it does it better than WinZip in most cases. Not only does 7-Zip allow you to work with it’s own compression format (7z) but also ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2, and TAR for both packing and unpacking, and RAR, CAB, ISO, and a whole bunch of others for unpacking only.

The install is really quick and painless (the setup file is a mere 840 KB). What you end up with is the 7-Zip File Manager, a command line interface, and most importantly – Windows Shell integration! I use 7-Zip exclusively through the Windows Shell. For instance, to add a file or files to a new archive, just right-click and go to the 7-Zip menu:


If you choose “Add to archive…” a little window pops up that lets you configure the type of archive, as well as compression settings. Usually though, it’s easier to just pick the “Add to filename.zip” option. It’ll create the zip file right in the same directory.

Unpacking archives is just as easy. Simply right-click on any archive file, and go to the 7-Zip menu:


Again you have a bunch of options, with “Extract Here” and “Extract to folder” being the two most useful. As you can see, in most cases the only 7-Zip interface you see are these context menus.

That’s my favorite part about 7-Zip: it does one thing and it does it well. It’s fast, and mostly stays out of the way. If you are sick of WinZip or WinRAR, or if you *gasp* use the Windows XP zip functionality, I strongly urge to you download and install 7-Zip!

Here is the 7-Zip website, and you can get the latest download here. Developers – you may be interested in the LZMA SDK (so that you can take advantage of the 7z compression format in your own applications).

Always On Wireless

Post ImageWhat’s my mantra? Wireless Everywhere! I look forward to the day when wireless is like oxygen; everywhere you go, it’s there. So it always makes me smile when I find an article that really nails the vision:

“If you ask someone what the (return on investment) on plumbing is, they couldn’t tell you, because it’s just part of what the building needs to survive,” Ed Cantwell, president and CEO of InnerWireless says. “Wireless is like that. People can debate if wireless is a utility, but I contend that it already is just like heating and cooling, lights, plumbing and electricity.”

I think that’s an excellent step, treating wireless access like water and having buildings designed with that in mind. That’s what happened at the University of Chicago hospital:

The pediatric hospital’s new wireless infrastructure aggregates two-way radio, public-safety radio, paging, Wi-Fi and cellular networks into one system that runs throughout the building, augmenting signals with antennas spread around each of its six floors.

There’s a whole host of startups providing such infrastructure. If I were to build a building, you can bet that an integrated wireless utility would be part of the specifications.

Read: CNET News.com