Monday, September 08, 2008

A very nice file explorer for Windows: Q-dir

This time I am presenting a tool that is not directly related to the production of documents with LaTeX. Q-dir a very nice and free file manager that I have discovered recently. It manages to be very small and, nevertheless, very flexible and efficient. For me, the main two very nice properties are the possibility of
  • opening several folders side by side for intensive files copying;
  • saving typical folder configurations as favourites and open them all in the same time by calling the corresponding favourite;
I have for example a fovourite for all folders corresponding to LateX file editing and another for HTML editing. Switching from one to the other is very quick and easy. You can also create favourites to your important folder for opening them directly, by two clicks of the mouse (one for calling the function and another for chosing the favourite folder.

It has of course many other very nice features. You cab also install it on a USB stick.
I invite you to check the website and download it for learning more about the possibilities it offers.
To repeat the slogan of it's creator: "Once Q-Dir, always Q-Dir ;)!"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Editing Latex Files under Windows with LatexEditor

Another very interesting tool for editing and compiling Latex files under Windows is LatexEditor (LED). It has the advantage over Scientific Word of being free.

It is not WYSIWYG or WYSIWYM (WhatYouSeeIsWhatYouMean) but it included a DVI viewer that can show the compiled document just next to the Latex source window.
LED also has many customizable tool bars (and you should customize them because the default configuration is not really as useful as what you get when you configure them to your needs) that lighten the burden of text typing .
It also integrates quite powerful spell check dictionaries and thesaurus. It can also convert files between different code pages during the opening and saving of the files: you can have an 8-bits version with accents on the screen (allowing easy spell check and readibility) and keep on the hard disk the 7-bits version where é is coded, as usual in Latex, \'{e}. You must customize filters to obtain such functionality (see, for example, the filter for French characters I have proposed on the LED support forums).

Migrating to a new laptop

I have recently received a new laptop and I had to proceed with the migration of my stupidly complex XP Pro installation to the new computer. Such a migration normally takes to me at least one whole week if I proceed through an install from the scratch. Given that I am terribly busy these days, I was desperately looking for a solution to make easier this migration. For years I have effectively been asking myself why someone (why not Microsoft? It's basic data transfer tool is jut ... too basic!) cannot invent a convenient tool for transferring the complete software setup from one computer to another.
This time I was motivated to better search and I have discovered that such a miraculous tool now exists and it is called Move Me by Spearit Software.

You install Move Me on the original computer and on the new computer, you plug both of them on the same network (it also handles transfer through USB or parallel connections) and start it on both of them. Then a wizard allows you to easily setup the system. It compares files on both systems and decides to transfer necessary new files to the new computer.
This part of the process could seem just stupid to you and you could think that any backup of copy software could do it. If you effectively try this by yourself, you will very quickly discover that it is not enough to transfer program files; many libraries and other configuration files will be missing in the Windows folder of the new computer and the programs will not in general work correctly. If you try to transfer also the files in the Windows folder, then you will very quickly see that this is not a good idea since it will mess up the Windows installation of the new computer. Another source of problem will be missing Registry entries and even if you are able to intelligently transfer just the necessary DLL files, your programs will not work or you will have to reconfigure them to your taste from scratch. This just normally takes a huge amount of time too.
This is where Move Me shines: it intelligently transfer system files installed by the programs, without messing with the Windows installation and it transfers the registry settings and imports them in the Registry of the new computer.
When the transfer finishes (that can take quite some time in a complex installation like mine), you boot the new compute and find your original configuration with the usual softwares and your customization. This is just magical and marvellous!

Caveats :

  • Move Me is not free. You pay a fix fee for each transfer (I have paid $47 including VAT). When you pay this amount, you do not buy the software but just the right to migrate from one single particular computer (but you can migrate to as many computers as you want from this computer - so the licence you but sticks to the original laptop). I have thought that spending 50 bucks for economizing one week's job was reasonable and I do not regret it: In one night my new laptop became fully functional!).
  • Move me does not transfer the active services and hardware configurations in order to preserve the system of the destination laptop. This means that you will have to reinstall some software in the new computer, mainly the softs that are intricately articulated with the operating system (eg. Anti-virus, firewall, virtual printers, Adobe Acrobat, Diskkeeper, etc.). It is even better to install first these softs on the new computer before beginning the migration.
  • Move Me does not duplicate user accounts existing in the original computer onto the new laptop, but each user can log in the original computer to migrate his/her personal data. I have found that the migration was really successful if you log under exactly the same administrative account (with the same name, and hence the same Documents and Settings folder name). This makes the migration much more robust and reliable.

I know now that I can migrate to a new laptop without spending 7-10 days for restoring my working environment on it. This is just marvelous and I thank Spearit for its inventiveness.
Note: The same software seems to also be commercialized by Laplink.

Update (August 18, 2008): MoveMe does not seem to handle the migration towards Windows Vista, while the Laplink version (PcMover) pretends to do. I have not yet tested this possibility.