Saturday, December 11, 2004

Utilities of the week: SlimBatteryMonitor, RCDefaultApp, PDF Browser Plugin

SlimBatteryMonitor offers Powerbook and iBook users a replacement for the battery menu icon. It has three different customizable display states: (1) running on battery; (2) running on AC, charging; and (3) running on AC, fully charged. For example, you can have the icon disappear altogether in state (3), be shown estimated time to fully charged in state (2), and time remaining in state (1). You can be shown numbers, or a graphical display on a battery icon: unlike the OS X built-in indicator, the battery icons can be turned vertical, so they occupy as little space in the menu bar as possible.

Desktop Mac users with certain UPSes (uninterruptible power supplies) can supposedly use SlimBatteryMonitor to monitor the UPS. I have not tested this.

The freeware RCDefaultApp adds a "default application for..." panel to System Preferences. This should have been part of OS X in the first place, as the present arrangement for, say, making Firefox your default web browser involves opening Safari (don't ask!) and changing it in the preferences there. But you can also change the default application in which a file with a particular extension opens --- in a much more intuitive way than the standard system interface (which goes via "Get info" in the Finder).

Those of us who need to read scientific papers for a living can barely live without PDF Browser Plugin. It is free for academic and noncommercial use (the first time you browse to a PDF file you will be prompted for your status). This plugin (which uses Quartz's native PDF capability) is only getting better with time. Keyboard navigation, zooming in an out, printing, saving as..., or opening in a choice of external applications (Adobe Reader, Acrobat if it's installed,...). All without leaving your browser. OK, it's not compatible with Microzift Internet Extorter, but who in their right mind would still be using the obsolete and Hebrew-crippled Mac version of that when you can have Firefox or even Safari?