Field Precision educational utilities

We support several utility programs to make life easier for Windows users. They are included in all our packages and are distributed for free to the scientific community. This article reviews what’s available and also introduces a new program, Boilerplate.

The utility collection started with the FP Universal Scale. It grew out of my frustration with conventional screen rulers which were either rigidly referenced to screen pixels or absolute units like inches or centimeters. A more useful approach is to reference the ruler to the units of the graph or photograph to be measured. Accordingly, after several years of thought I set out to create an on-screen version of the much-loved Gerber Variable Scale. The implementation involved intensive interactions with the Windows API, so I decided to use RealBasic with purchased plugins to handle screen overlays. During development, the program expanded from a simple screen ruler to a complete screen digitization system for scientists and engineers.

There were three motivations for the next utility, the FP File Organizer:

  • In comparison to sophisticated two-window file managers like Free Commander, I wanted a simple, clean interface that supported the functions I used every work day.
  • Our technical programs involve extended file organization. In discussing file management in tutorials, I wanted a standard reference environment.
  • I needed a general file-manager unit for my MIDI programs.

FP File Organizer has several nice features like fast file searches, full path copy to the clipboard, definable tools, special folders and desktop shortcut creation. I use the program for all my work except for multi GB file transfers. For these, I use xcopy or robocopy.

The Cecil_B program converts an organized set of BMP files into an AVI movie. I developed it in response to a customer request to make animations of solutions in time-domain programs like TDiff and HeatWave. I created the final two utilities, Computer Task Organizer (CTO) and Boilerplate to reduce frustrations I noticed over the last 30 years using Windows. With regard to CTO, I found that most of my work day involved running the same programs with the same documents or going to the same website repetitively. The program reduces the 100 tasks that I perform every day to single button clicks.

The new utility Boilerplate (Figure 1) expands the functions of the Windows clipboard in two ways:

  • You can build a library of standard text selections (i.e., boilerplate) that can be transferred to the clipboard with a single button press — ready to paste into a document.
  • You can recall items previously on the clipboard.

The second feature deals with an irritating limit of the clipboard — it stores only one item at a time. Boilerplate keeps a running record of the last twenty clipboard texts — they can be recalled to the clipboard with a single button click. I got the idea from the old utility Clipboard Magik. The program had a lot of potential, but was difficult to utilize in practice.

Boilerplate screenshot

Figure 1. Boilerplate screenshot.


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