Practical Magic

Every so often I come across a bit of software or technology or related online magic that captures my interest to such an extent that I drop virtually everything else I’m doing and focus on learning more about it.  Lately, “every so often” has become “with almost every breath I take.” If I don’t document, now, the stuff I’ve stumbled upon in recent days, I’m afraid I’ll forget where to go back to look for it. All of this is to say this post is for me (as they all are), but you might find something interesting here, too.

  • WriteWords Frequency Counter is a website that counts the number of times each word is used in text that the site user copies and pastes to a dialogue box on the site.  It’s impressive and can identify word overuse, a good tool for writers.
  • 750 Words.  This is a site for aspiring writers, a place that intends to help writers get in the habit of writing every day.  I already write every day, but not necessarily 750 words every morning.  I’ll have to explore it a little closer.
  • MailChimp offers both free and paid email services.  It includes the complimentary use of a number of newsletter templates, all of which can be customized.  It’s impressively easy to use and I suspect I’ll be using the free version (good for lists up to 2000 emails), to promote some of my writing (when it gets to that point).
  • Google Forms, is a simple application that permits the user (I presume he/she must have a Google account, which is easy to set up) to create and distribute surveys.  I have been using FormSite (I still have a few months left of a paid subscription), but will switch to Google Forms when I need/want to do surveys of any kind in the future.  I found it interesting to learn that Google also has a paid version which allows the user to send surveys to existing lists of people compiled by Google.
  • Another freebie, SurveyMonkey, also has a paid version that is more expensive that Google’s paid version, but also allows the surveyor to be more precise in who they send the survey to. But, back to the free version, it’s a very, very simple tool and I suspect I might use it again, too.
  • Screenr is a website that allows the user to capture what’s showing on the computer screen, as well as record voice at the same time, and then “screencast” the results.
  • If you want to calculate how many days (or minutes or seconds) between dates, there’s a website that will do if for you.  It’s called and it’s a website that I’ve used for years (especially when I was orchestrating international conference calls; was good to know times when all participants likely be awake), but I didn’t know until just a few days ago it had the ability to calculate lapsed time between dates. I was curious how many seconds I’ve lived (give or take a day’s worth); the calculation I got said I’ll have been alive 1,934,928,000 seconds at the the end of the day.
  • is just for fun, but I am impressed with how much fun I can envision having with it.  The site produces a massively enlarged version of any photo you upload, returning the photo to you in the form of multiple PDF files that can be assembled into a giant wall-sized version of the photo you uploaded.  It is cool in the extreme.
  • Printfriendly is a that enables the user to make any website you visit suitable for printing.  The print-friendly version won’t necessarily look like the one on the screen, but it will be far easier to read on the page, in many cases.  I tried it on my blog and was impressed that the print version is much easier to read that if I simply tried to print the web page directly.  It has an add-on for Google Chrome (the browser I use), which enables me to simply click on an icon to bring up a true print-friendly website.
  • ThisToThat is a bizarre but amazingly useful little website application with which you select two different materials you want to glue together and the application identifies the best types of glue to use.
  • PicMonkey is a very easy to use and versatile photo/image editor.  It’s not PhotoShop, but it’s free and a cool app.
  • is an interesting online writing collaboration tool.  I haven’t used it yet, but I am glad to know it exists.
  • Scribblemaps is said to allow the user to make notes, etc. on maps.  I haven’t used it. It’s on this list because I want to return to it and check it out.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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