Review: Steed, an attractive file transfer client for Windows

Utilities like text editors and FTP clients may not scream “sexy!”, but for us geeks who perform actual work with our computers, they’re critical tools. Unfortunately, these tools get so entrenched and build such strongly opinionated followings (people still use vi, for Pete’s sake!) that few developers try to build new, better tools.

A brave (or maybe they just didn’t know any better) trio of Frenchmen, calling themselves FrenchFry, decided that it was time to introduce something new into the stale world of Windows-based tools and just released a new file transfer utility named Steed. Inspired by their bravery, I decided to take Steed for a spin.


You may be asking “Why does this idiot keep saying ‘file transfer client’ instead of FTP?” Good question, jerk. I’m calling Steed a file transfer client because it does more than just FTP. It manages transfers for Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure as well.

Yes, I named my server Don Johnson. Don't judge me.
Yes, I named my server Don Johnson. Don’t judge me.

Another key differentiator from apps like Filezilla or WinSCP is that Steed’s interface isn’t a collection of seemingly random text fields and buttons. The interface looks to have been heavily inspired by Panic’s Transmit (my file transfer client of choice on Mac). Although not as polished as Transmit, Steed’s interface is clean and coherent.

I liked that Steed supports the sync of server settings via Dropbox and SkyDrive, which sounds like a small thing, but solves a big pain for folks who access lots of different servers. In that same vein, Steed’s bookmark management puts Filezilla’s Server Manager to shame by being much more user-friendly and a lot less Windows 3.1.

The less buttons, the better.
The less buttons, the better.

Most of my quibbles with Steed are due to its newness. FrenchFry tout Steed as being “beautiful” and it is much better looking than their Windows competition, but I don’t think it’s quite there yet. Some of the generic “templatey-ness” that plagues many .NET apps shines through around the edges.

The app never crashed on me, but I did manage to get it to throw some errors while trying to delete folders via FTP. Oddly enough, as soon as I restarted the application, it prompted me to download a patch that wound up resolving the errors I was seeing. So it appears the dev team is actively working on getting things cleaned up.

Final thoughts

I think the comparison to Transmit is an important one. For years, Transmit has been the de-facto file transfer client of Mac web and app developers, and Mac devs who’ve migrated to Windows have been clamoring for a Transmit-comparable file transfer client. Steed isn’t there yet, but it appears to be well on the way. I could see it being very popular in that crowd.

Outside those former-Mac devs, I’m less optimistic. For many developers, the free alternatives will remain “good enough”. If FrenchFry continues building modern features and adding polish though, they might stand a chance of cutting out a bigger niche.

Pricing and availability

Steed is available for a launch-price of $24.99 on FrenchFry’s website. A ten-day trial is also available.

Top 5 Free Antivirus Software for Windows

Antivirus software provides essential protection for your PC from virus, trojan, spyware, worm, adware, root kit and key logger infections. One of these nasty infections could expose key personal information or stop your computer from working. As powerful as the web is, it is also a very dangerous place. However, installing antivirus software does not mean you have to break the bank. Some of the best antivirus software are free and have what it takes to keep your PC safe.

If you’re tired of expensive antivirus packages that slow your PC down then these free antivirus programs are the way to go.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition  is an excellent choice, if not the best for a free antivirus. AVG Anti-Virus Free is a full-fledged antivirus and anti-spyware tool, includes an email scanner, link scanner, scheduled scanning options, automatic updates, and more. AVG has been certified to remove 100% of in-the-wild viruses

Cons: Unfortunately AVG free has grown considerably in size, has very slow scan speeds and advertisements (but they can be disabled). AVG Free Edition does not provide adware/spyware removal (though it is available in the paid version of the product).

Avast! Free

Avast! Free Antivirus is improving its detection rates over the past few years “heuristics engine” and now ranks with the some of the best. Avast has the following features: full real-time capabilities including web, e-mail, IM, P2P and network shields, boot-time scanning, and a behavioral blocker. This program is also very light on resources.AVAST has been making this antivirus product since 1988 and is often cited as the most installed antivirus product. It also has a large user support community in case you need any help.

Cons: Average scores in PCMag’s malware blocking test.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials is a another fan favorite with great detection rates, particularly for rootkits. Microsoft Security Essentials has very few false positives, is light on resources and is good at removal of existing malware. MSE is a great choice for average users because of the minimal user interaction required. It is directly from Microsoft and it’s very easy to see if your computer is secure from threats: if the icon next to your clock is green, you’re in good; if it’s red, something is wrong.

Cons: The main downsides are the slow scan speeds and the lengthy amount of time it takes to quarantine malware.

Panda Cloud Antivirus

Panda Cloud Antivirus  protects you from several kinds of malware threats – viruses, worms, Trojans, adware, and more – just like all the other free antivirus programs in this list. Along with Microsoft Security Essentials, it is an excellent choice for average users with a simple interface and completely automated features with automatic updating and removal of malware. What makes Panda Cloud Antivirus one of the top free antivirus programs is that it does its job from “the cloud” meaning the  antivirus work that typically slows down a computer is done on computers elsewhere on the Internet, freeing up your computer to work like nothing is happening.

Cons: As many free program installs Panda Cloud Antivirus tries to install a toolbar and set Yahoo! as your browser’s home page during the installation process so uncheck the boxes before continuing if you don’t want them.

Avira AntiVir Personal Edition

Avira AntiVir Personal Edition protects you from viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware, adware, and various other kinds of malware, making it a fully functional anti-malware tool. AntiVir does not include web or e-mail scanning capabilities; this is only available in the paid version.

On installation, AntiVir schedules a daily full scan. You can, of course, change the schedule or add your own scheduled events. By default its configuration page shows only basic settings.

Cons: One con about Avira AntiVir Personal was the configuration you have to complete after installation which might be difficult if you’re a computer novice.


A lot of time was spent comparing free antivirus programs and there are many more that are not on this list. Each individual may have a different need or use for antivirus software.

Unfortunately no package excelled in every area. Some were lightweight but less accurate, others were good at detecting malware but had a significant performance on your system.Picking a winner inevitably involves some compromises and may vary depending on your requirements.

After weighing the results the program that gets my first place vote is : AVG Free 2012. It has plenty of features and is lightweight making AVG Free 2012 a good all-round winner of the best free antivirus award. lets you create HTML5 infographics for free

Infographics have become an incredibly popular way to convey statistics and information nowadays — almost too popular it seems, but there’s really no better way to display such statistics in a visually appealing way. If you’ve always wanted to create your own, but never wanted to bother to make one entirely from scratch, is a web-based tool that allows you put an infographic together quickly and easily.

To start off, you can choose an overall theme that your infographic will follow. From there you can change around objects and add some text. Within a matter of a few minutes or so, you’ll have a workable infographic to use for all sorts of purposes. is still in beta form, so there’s a lot of things missing from it that would make it an awesome creation tool, such as more options for themes and objects, as well as being able to change the color palette (that’s coming eventually, though). Placing in charts is also kind of a crapshoot. There’s not a way to make custom charts inside the tool; there’s only static chart images that you can drop in. Then again, once the development team works out all of the kinks and adds some more features, might possibly turn into one of the best infographic creation tools.

However, isn’t the first tool that can create infographics quickly and easily. has been around for a little while longer, but it requires you to sign up first using your Twitter or Facebook account before creating infographics. This is where might get the edge; no sign up required.

However, even though users are now able to create infographics in mere minutes, should they? There is, in fact, a huge difference between a true infographic and just arranging facts and words into a semi-pleasing image. True infographics contain worthwhile information that is put into context. So, yes, anyone can create infographics in a way, but it still takes a smart and creative mind to truly create something that is both informative and appealing to the eyes.

How Evernote Changed My Life

Evernote has been around a while now, and is a seemingly permanent fixture on the ubiquitous “must have apps” lists that fill technical websites and computer magazines.

Evernote is, however, far from being something just for the nerds. Heavy exposure everywhere from Time magazine to the New York Times has led to it being one of the most consistently popular apps for iOS and Android. There’s therefore a chance you’re using it already. If not, I’m going to tell you why you should.

Despite the hype, I was uninspired by the idea of Evernote to start with. I’m a cynical kind of techie. I have to spend my life not only using tech, but also helping those less technical use it. My interest in anything new and / or popular is less about what it can DO, and more about whether my clients or I will actually consistently use it.

I thought about all the ways I already had to take notes – Mac Mail, Microsoft Outlook, my iPhone’s native notes app, Microsoft OneNote, Wunderlist, my expensive Moleskine notebook. All of these are things I have used at some point with good intentions. All of them also now linger somewhere in my life with a few long-forgotten lists or notes living within. When I want to write a shopping list, I pull a sheet of paper out of my printer. The prospects for my long-term use of Evernote were not great.

OneNote - Forgotten in My Life
OneNote - Forgotten in My Life

However, Evernote’s killer feature is its synchronization. Even the free version allows syncing of a generous quantity of notes, Internet page grabs and camera snapshots across ALL devices: PCs, Macs, iDevices and Androids.

My time with Evernote started much the same as my time with Microsoft’s OneNote. “Right,” I thought, “first off, I’ll start a section for all my blogs and projects, then one for shopping lists and recipes.” I filled a few things in, in my heart thinking that a week down the line I wouldn’t be using it.

Then, however, the next day, I was sitting at a café near my home, and a flood of blog ideas came to mind. Straight away, my iPhone was out of my pocket. I went directly to the relevant lists and added the ideas. I decided to commit to this for a few more days, and suddenly, I had a better list of topics than I had in ages – and it was a click or a tap away wherever I happened to be.

At this point I started to think that Evernote may actually be a keeper, and decided to play around a bit more.

A new takeaway restaurant opened in my town. Wanting to show my wife the menu and suggest we tried the establishment that evening, I walked up to it, clicked my iPhone’s camera and quickly uploaded it to Evernote. All my wife had to do was look on Evernote on my Mac at home, peruse the menu and let me know what she wanted.

Evernote Displaying a Takeaway Menu
Evernote Displaying a Takeaway Menu

This was the light bulb moment. “Hang on,” I thought, “how much easier will life be once I’ve taken a little picture of all the takeaway menus?” No longer will my wife have to call me from the doorstep of a Chinese takeaway read out the menu and see what I fancy. I’ll just have all of them in Evernote.

My Evernote is now filled, as it should be, with idea lists, brainstorms, shopping lists, recipes and, yes, a bunch of takeaway menus. As time goes on, I will be seeing how other Evernote features work their way into my life. Evernote has improved my life, even without text searching of photographed content and the ability to access notes via a browser (in the paid version).

As I said before, to me, software is not about what it can do, but whether I will consistently use it. Well, despite my initial reservations, I now use Evernote everyday – and that’s a win.

Becoming a daring beer explorer with BrewGene for iOS and Android

Have you ever felt overwhelmed at a liquor store when you’re faced with literally an entire wall of beer? On one hand, you can grab the old standby you’ve grabbed 100 times before and know you’ll like it. But on the other, there are 20 or 30 other kinds you have yet to try that could easily become the new standby. On top of that, there are plenty that you’ve tried before, but you can’t quite remember whether you really liked them or not.

This happens to me almost every time I go to buy beer. Part of me wants to try every single option available. The other doesn’t want to waste money on a potentially disappointing choice and wants to stick to something familiar.

Thankfully, BrewGene came along.

BrewGene is an app for Android and iOS that has a large database full of beers. After you rate a few different kinds, BrewGene will start to recommend beers that you may like. There is also a search function that will give you some info on a beer such as the style, alcohol content, and a scale of 1-5 on how much it predicts you will like it based on your ratings of past brews.

The first thing to do when you start of BrewGene is to start rating beers. You can do this by searching for beers one at a time and rating them, or going to the Random option and selecting from the listed varieties. This option is best because it is more likely to list both beers that you like and that you don’t like. Rating beers that you don’t especially favor will help the App give more accurate recommendations and ratings.

After you get through a few initial ratings, you can start to use the other options BrewGene provides. The first is a history of all your rated beers, listed in order of how you rated them from high to low. This can give you a quick reference of beers that you’ve liked in the past.

The next option is Recommendations. This will list some beers that you may like to try based on how you’ve rated other beers.

The Watch list stores beers that you have marked to try later. You can add and remove beers from here as you like. This is a good way to mark beers that interest you in the Recommendations or Random options.

The Top 100 is exactly that: the highest rated beers in the database. The beer of the day is a beer selected every day. If you find a beer that is not yet in the database you can add it, a picture, and relevant info with the submit option.

The Search option is probably one of the more valuable tools of this app. If you find a beer that looks good, type it in to get some more info on it and a recommendation based on your prior ratings.

The last option is the Random Beer List. This option is good for rating different beers you’ve had to give the app a better idea of your tastes. This is also a good place to get familiarized with some brews you’ve never heard of before. I’ve spent a good amount of time just paging through the random beer database looking at different beer I had never heard of before.


All in all, this app does a pretty good job. It is nice to have a bank of beer you’ve tried and what you’ve thought of them. The Recommended option is good for finding new beer to try.

Unfortunately, the 1 – 5 scale recommendations don’t seem to be able to pin my tastes down very well. This could very well be due to the fact that my beer tastes are pretty fickle and I really don’t have much reasoning for why I like some and don’t like others, so I can’t fault it for that.

If you’re a big beer drinker, and especially if you have as much trouble deciding what kind of beer to get at the store as I do, I would recommend giving BrewGene a try. The database is huge, and the more beer you rank, the better it gets to know you.

WriteRoom Brings Distraction-free Writing to Mac OS X

I write for a living. While I don’t suffer writers block too often, I do have one major problem that affects my productivity and reduces my output – distraction.

I love my MacBook Pro. I’m just a few clicks away from 16,000 songs, and all day long various applications ping, click and bing, alerting me to new Facebook photos, emails from friends and comments on my blogs. Entertaining though all this is, it’s not exactly conducive to sitting down and getting my articles written.

Enter WriteRoom, a Mac application designed to take away all these distractions and allow me to concentrate on what actually matters – getting my work done.

WriteRoom is basically a text editor intended to run in full screen mode. Nothing is shown apart from the text. If I move my cursor a word count pops up in the bottom-left of the screen – it’s all I want, and all I need.

WriteRoom for Mac
WriteRoom for Mac

There is actually more power hidden away than that. It is possible to configure the program to display rich text instead of simply words, but that, to me, is against what I am trying to achieve.

I’ve quickly settled into a completely new writing workflow, with WriteRoom at the center of it. I open the program, switch to full screen and type. As there is no active spelling and grammar checking, I’m not distracted by errors that disturb my flow. Rather than editing as I go, I copy and paste the whole lot into Word at the end, and do one big proofreading and formatting exercise.

Given that I always did this at the end anyway, I am saving a lot of time. I realize now that I was going back and correcting errors on the fly because Word’s red and green error lines were breaking my concentration. As a result, my articles are now getting written much quicker.

WriteRoom is highly customizable. Your editing window can have any background and text color you like. I have simply gone for green on a black background, which is both easy on my eyes, and lets me pretend I’m using a vintage Amstrad PCW word-processer – which feels oddly compelling on state of the art Mac!

WriteRoom is fully compliant with OS X Lion’s resume / save features – useful to some I’m sure, but not relevant to me as I always move text into Word for further editing. This is one way in which I could suggest a small improvement – a shortcut button to fire the text directly into Word or Pages would further speed up my workflow.

Those who do wish to save directly from the program can do so in text format only – or export straight to PDF.

Another handy feature is the option of logging work sessions to a spreadsheet – useful to track how long articles are taking.

The simple things are the most important – the things that actually affect how I work. Switching to full screen mode requires a shortcut of CTRL+SHIFT+F. To get back to the OS X desktop, you have to repeat this combination – pressing “Esc” does nothing. Now this may seem like a small thing, but when I have used Word’s full screen mode, the temptation to quickly press “Esc” when Mail “bings” the arrival of a new message is too much to resist.

This and the totally distraction free typing window are what make this app essential – it genuinely makes me better at my work – and exactly what the best apps should do. For me, it’s worth every penny of its $10 price tag.

Use Bubbles and Your Android Phone to Create Memorable Phone Calls

In a world filled with short attention spans and thinning short-term memories, it can sometimes be difficult to remember to mentioning  important topics while making a phone call. Heck, give a person 30 minutes of phone conversation to wander, and their mind will stray further than the island of Lilliput (hint: it’s a fictitious location from a book).

Well I don’t know about you, but I’ve struggled enough with trying to remember what to say during my phone calls. To fix this, I’m switching to Bubbles.


And what pray tell is Bubbles, you ask? Well, Bubbles (the full name for all you searchers out there is “Bubble – Pop Up Bubble Notes” in case one is lost in all the bubble popping games the market has to offer; otherwise use the official Android Market link is here) is an app that allows one to link important to-do’s and reminders (now in “bubble” form) to Google contacts so that phone calls can stay productive, memorable, and on-task. Here’s the lowdown.

From left to right: contacts, contacts with bubbles, and past contacts called

Once installed on your Android phone, Bubbles automatically grabs all your Google contacts and makes them available on the main screen. Once a few bubbles are created for contacts, they will show up here on the right side. If it makes more sense to filter one’s contacts by bubble reminders only, the second (and appropriately named) “bubblers” tab will do just that. And finally if one wants to see if they have been successfully following up on the bubble reminders, they can check their phone’s call log on the third tab.

Select a contact, create a bubble, and color it appropriately

To actually create a bubble, one must first select a contact and then hit the “add bubble” button in the bottom left. From here all it takes is a some text and a suitable bubble color, and the bubble reminder is created for the contact.

Now when one accesses the person’s contact card from the main menu, the bubble reminders will appear in order of creation date on their profile. But wait, there’s more:

I can't believe I forgot to forget his birthday...Good work, bubbles

This is where Bubbles takes personal reminders to the next level. Whenever one makes a phone call to a contact with an attached bubble reminder, the mentioned bubbles will appear on the phone call screen. That way before you start talking, you know exactly what you need to mention in the conversation. When, where, and how long the bubbles show up during phone calls can all be changed in the “Settings” menu.

Shouldn't I be popping the bubble instead of deleting it?

When done with a bubble reminder, deleting it is as easy as going into the contact’s profile again and hitting the “X” on the bubble in question.


Regardless if you always remember what to say or never get around to saying what you want to, Bubbles is a solid app that can help keep contacts in order and phone conversations on task. You’ll be so contact task-oriented, the only place you’ll use the word “wandering” is a Scrabble board.

Clearly: Chrome browser extension cuts distractions from web pages

Clearly Less Distracting

Evernote has created a tool for people who are easily distracted. Clearly is a Google Chrome extension that strips out navigation, links and advertisement from any Web page and presents you with a cleaner, less distracting online reading experience.

Clearly Less Distracting
Clearly is a Chrome browser extension that strips navigation, links and ads from a page

The Clearly reading experience is customizable: you can choose between three styles of background and typography – which are clean but perfectly boring, but that is the point. Sometimes, a plain vanilla reading experience without the option of clicking on links helps readers concentrate on the reading.

To be honest, I don’t care so much about that. The links and navigation do little to interrupt my reading. But online advertising is becoming more obtrusive. The worst are the ads are the type  that pop up in the amount of time it takes me to read a paragraph or two. That’s more of an interruption than distraction but still stymied by Clearly.

I appreciate that Clearly attempts to stitch together multi-page articles into one page. While that worked for me when reading the New York Times, it failed in Sports Illustrated. Clearly seems to be easier to trigger and faster than clicking on the “Single Page” link on the page. And not every multi-page post has that “Single Page” option.

Of course Clearly has a button to clip the page to your Evernote notebooks. Which is nice if you have something against bookmarklets. But the winning feature for me is that it creates a print-friendly version of the meanest of web pages.

Note that Clearly only works in Chrome although the developers are promising that support for other browsers is coming.

This is a limited extension that strips distractions from a web page and leaves just a clean presentation of text. Even if that is not important to you, Clearly is worth having so you can have fast access to single-page and printer-friendly versions.

Download Clearly [Google Chrome Web Store]

Tips and Tools for Better, Faster Writing

I’ve been writing here at Techerator for over a year, but only recently have I decided to take steps to improve my writing and time efficiency. You probably know the drill: sit down at your desk, check out Twitter, open your word editor, Tweet something, check out Facebook, decide on a title, Facebook about how hard it is to write, go reward yourself with a cup of coffee, I wonder what’s on CNN…

We can do better than this. Without the massive amount of distractions inherent to the Internet our writing has more substance and fewer errors. Writing can be such a joy, but it’s so easy to get off track — how can we sweep away the distractions and get the best version of our content on the page quickly? Here are a few tips and tools that have cut my typical write time in half, and I like to think these tricks have made my writing better as well.

1. Do your research before you start writing

This seems like a no-brainer, but I think a lot of people (myself included) ignore this very basic concept. Until recently, I had a tab in my browser dedicated to my WordPress post editor and I would rapidly switch back and forth typing a sentence or two at a time as I figured out what I planned to say.

Grab a notebook (you know, that old paper version of the internet) and jot down your ideas as you’re reading. Collect all of the images you plan to use, and formulate an outline on paper. After 15-20 minutes of dedicated reading and establishing your position on a topic, you’ll be amazed how prepared you feel to write. When we have a solid stance on something, our natural instinct is to share that feeling.

2. Use BreakTaker

You need to take breaks while you’re working. It’s easy to get sucked into your project and forget to stretch, sit up straight, or even breath properly — this costs you productivity, and more of it than you’d expect. Techerator’s own Evan Wondrasek created a useful tool called BreakTaker that will remind you to take a break at user-defined intervals and offer suggestions for your 60-second breather. Set it up and use it. Evan is working on a feature that will kick you in the groin if you ignore your BreakTaker.

3. Eliminate the distractions and write… JUST WRITE

This is the meat of my argument, and trust me, eliminating your distractions will make writing so fast that you’ll be back to your Xbox in surprising time.

Here’s what you do: Gather your materials; you should have everything you need to complete your article. Disable your wi-fi and close your browser. Now, open your text editor… but screw your old text editor. If you’re running on a Mac, WriteRoom is the tool for you, and if you’re on Windows, Dark Room is almost the exact same thing.

WriteRoom and Dark Room are minimalistic editors that occupy your entire screen and allow you to fully engage your material. You can change the colors to fit your preferences, but seriously, green on black is so awesome I don’t know why you’d want to change it. Try these editors with the lights off — writing in a dark room is a technique some of the most successful bloggers use (like @arrington). Combine with headphones; now you’re big-time. With nothing else to draw your attention, you will absolutely blaze through your article.

4. Proof read with a partner

I know, this seems over the top —  but believe me, it is completely possible and makes a world of difference. If you’re a writer, you probably have writer friends, or at least writers that contribute to the same blog or newspaper. Coordinate with a writing partner to exchange articles at a specific time to quickly proof, edit, and offer notes for each other. It takes 10-15 minutes at most, and the perspective offered by a reader will improve your word choices, your story flow, and on rare occasion they’ll recommend that you scrap it… because sometimes we convince ourselves that total garbage is worth publishing. Get a buddy and your writing will be better and your editing much quicker. Your managing editor will thank you.

These tricks have helped me reduce my write time and improve the quality of my content, and if you’re diligent, they’ll work for you, too. Good luck out there, and if you have tips that work for you, please share them in the comments.

BitTorrent takes on Dropbox with new file-sharing service

It seems that everyone is planning an Operation Overthrow against popular file synching service Dropbox. Earlier this week, it was Insync. This time, the newest member to join the movement is BitTorrent, Inc. with their new desktop app simply dubbed Share. The service allows you to transfer any type of files to anyone with no size limit to weigh you down.

The process is easy and straightforward. After installing and firing up the application, add files by dragging-and-dropping or by browsing for them. Then, enter in your email address, as well as the recipient’s email address (you can have more than one recipient). You can also connect to Facebook and add your friends that way.

After you send the file, the recipient will receive an email letting them know about the file(s) and how to get the Share app (if they don’t already have it).

Your account will automatically be created after you send your first file share and the next window is a list of all the files that you’re sharing and information on who its shared with, etc. Users don’t have to be online at the same time to send and receive files, since they’re cached in the cloud and once the files have sufficiently been shared by peers, they’re taken off the cloud to make room for future files transfers.

Share is clearly still in its early alpha stages, but it will eventually be integrated into the popular BitTorrent client uTorrent, adding even more features to the lightweight program. Currently, Share is only available on Windows, but will be available on Macs via uTorrent in the future.

A free, unlimited file-sharing service this easy simply cannot go ignored. It’s a fantastic alternative to anyone who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty with true BitTorrent and makes sharing larger files a breeze.